Ecological Genetics, Local Adaptation, and Phenotypic Plasticity in Bromus tectorum in the Context of a Changing Climate

  • Rebecca A. HufftEmail author
  • Tamara J. Zelikova
Part of the Springer Series on Environmental Management book series (SSEM)


Effective management of invasive species spread requires understanding the potential of exotic species to colonize different habitat types. In the case of Bromus tectorum, colonization potential includes persisting in variable environments via phenotypic plasticity or via genetic variation. Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass or downy brome) is a highly invasive, self-pollinating, winter annual grass that was introduced to the intermountain region of North America around 1890 and expanded to its modern range within 40 years. Common garden studies have helped shed light on outcrossing frequency, microsite effects on establishment and growth, traits that could confer invasiveness, and variation in germination, morphology, and physiology. Here, we review the evidence for existing local adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in B. tectorum in its invaded range along with the potential for responses to climate change and discuss implications of both for its success as an invader and future management. All of these studies show that B. tectorum can tolerate a wide range of habitats as the result of genetic variation among populations, a range of locally adapted ecotypes, and phenotypic plasticity. The success of B. tectorum could be due to its ability to maintain fitness in both high-quality and marginal environments.


Adaptive evolution Common garden General-purpose genotype Genetic variation Phenotypic plasticity Reciprocal transplant 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Denver Botanic GardensDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of BotanyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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