Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 185–193 | Cite as

Inter-island but not intra-island divergence among populations of sea oats, Uniola paniculata L. (Poaceae)

  • Cara L. GormallyEmail author
  • J. L. Hamrick
  • Lisa A. Donovan
Research Article


Understanding the underlying causes of phenotypic trait variation among populations is important for informing conservation decisions. This knowledge can be used to determine whether locality matters when sourcing populations for habitat restoration. Uniola paniculata is a federally protected coastal dune grass native to the southeastern Atlantic and the Gulf coasts of the USA that is often used to stabilize restored dune habitats. This study uses neutral genetic markers (allozymes) and a greenhouse common garden study to determine the relative contributions of neutral evolutionary processes and natural selection to patterns of phenotypic variation among natural populations of U. paniculata. Seeds were sourced from foredune and backdune populations spanning shoreline-to-landward environmental gradients on each of four Georgia barrier islands. Based on previous work, we expected to find evidence of divergent selection among populations located on the shoreline-to-landward environmental gradient. However, differences among islands, rather than intra-island habitat differences, drive divergent selection on aboveground and total biomass. The lack of evidence for divergent selection across the shoreline-to-landward gradient suggests that previously documented intra-island trait variation is likely due to phenotypic plasticity. Our findings have implications for conservation and restoration efforts involving U. paniculata, as there is evidence for divergent selection among populations located on neighboring islands.


FST Allozymes QST Population differentiation Uniola paniculata Coastal dunes 



The authors wish to thank Scott Gevaert for assistance with seed collections and critical feedback for early drafts of this manuscript, Cecile Deen for assistance with allozymes, Beau Brouillette for assistance with statistical analyses, and the University of Georgia Plant Biology Greenhouse staff for assistance in germinating and keeping the plants alive. Research at the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve (SINERR) was facilitated by the research reserve coordinator, Dorset Hurley. Tom Patrick at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Center provided invaluable help in the permitting process for seed collection. We thank the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for a graduate fellowship that supported this work (NAO7NOS42-00039), as well as the Georgia Sea Grant College Program (NA04OAR4170033) and the Georgia Botanical Society for financial support. This is contribution number 993 from the University of Georgia Marine Institute.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cara L. Gormally
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. L. Hamrick
    • 1
  • Lisa A. Donovan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant BiologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensGeorgia
  2. 2.School of BiologyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaGeorgia

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