Remnant native Phragmites australis maintains genetic diversity despite multiple threats
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Over the past century, an increasing number of species have been negatively impacted by anthropogenic factors such as habitat disturbance and introduced species. One such plant, Phragmites australis subsp. americanus is a perennial emergent grass found in tidal and inland marshes of the Atlantic coast of the United States. While rarely dominant, it grows in mixed communities and across much of this area its distribution has been reduced dramatically, likely due to eutrophication and the invasion of conspecific P. australis introduced from Europe. In this study, two noncoding cpDNA markers and six microsatellite loci were used to characterize genetic diversity among 58 remnant native P. australis stands from North Carolina to Maine. Five chloroplast DNA haplotypes were identified along with 42 multilocus genotypes. Bayesian exploration detected no population structure (e.g., optimal K = 1), indicating that these individuals form a single population. The analysis also detected no presence of hybrids of native and introduced P. australis in the samples, despite the close proximity of individuals to each other in many cases. These results suggest that the genetic composition of native P. australis across the region remains homogeneous and pure, providing managers with justification for its conservation and a potentially large source of germplasm for use in restoration activities.
KeywordsCommon reed Conservation Hybridization Marsh Native Invasive species Restoration
Thanks to Dr. Eldredge Bermingham and Dr. Oris Sanjur for financial support and use of laboratory facilities. I also thank Adam Lambert, Michael League, William McAvoy, Robert E. Meadows, Thomas Mozdzer, Thomas J. Rawinski, Ron Rosza, and Alice Wellford for assistance with sample collections and field identifications of native P. australis populations. Jefferson S. Hall and two anonymous reviewers provided comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.
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