No effect of seed source on multiple aspects of ecosystem functioning during ecological restoration: cultivars compared to local ecotypes of dominant grasses.
ABSTRACT: Genetic principles underlie recommendations to use local seed, but a paucity of information exists on the genetic distinction and ecological consequences of using different seed sources in restorations. We established a field experiment to test whether cultivars and local ecotypes of dominant prairie grasses were genetically distinct and differentially influenced ecosystem functioning. Whole plots were assigned to cultivar and local ecotype grass sources. Three subplots within each whole plot were seeded to unique pools of subordinate species. The cultivar of the increasingly dominant grass, Sorghastrum nutans, was genetically different than the local ecotype, but genetic diversity was similar between the two sources. There were no differences in aboveground net primary production, soil carbon accrual, and net nitrogen mineralization rate in soil between the grass sources. Comparable productivity of the grass sources among the species pools for four years shows functional equivalence in terms of biomass production. Subordinate species comprised over half the aboveground productivity, which may have diluted the potential for documented trait differences between the grass sources to influence ecosystem processes. Regionally developed cultivars may be a suitable alternative to local ecotypes for restoration in fragmented landscapes with limited gene flow between natural and restored prairie and negligible recruitment by seed.
Project description:Genetic variation in a single species can have predictable and heritable effects on associated communities and ecosystem processes, however little is known about how genetic variation of a dominant species affects plant community assembly. We characterized the genetic structure of a dominant grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and two subordinate species (Chamaecrista fasciculata, Silphium integrifolium), during the third growing season in grassland communities established with genetically distinct (cultivated varieties or local ecotypes) seed sources of the dominant grasses. There were genetic differences between subordinate species growing in the cultivar versus local ecotype communities, indicating that intraspecific genetic variation in the dominant grasses affected the genetic composition of subordinate species during community assembly. A positive association between genetic diversity of S. nutans, C. fasciculata, and S. integrifolium and species diversity established the role of an intraspecific biotic filter during community assembly. Our results show that intraspecific variation in dominant species can significantly modulate the genetic composition of subordinate species.
Project description:Abstract Plant response to climate depends on a species’ adaptive potential. To address this, we used reciprocal gardens to detect genetic and environmental plasticity effects on phenotypic variation and combined with genetic analyses. Four reciprocal garden sites were planted with three regional ecotypes of Andropogon gerardii, a dominant Great Plains prairie grass, using dry, mesic, and wet ecotypes originating from western KS to Illinois that span 500–1,200 mm rainfall/year. We aimed to answer: (a) What is the relative role of genetic constraints and phenotypic plasticity in controlling phenotypes? (b) When planted in the homesite, is there a trait syndrome for each ecotype? (c) How are genotypes and phenotypes structured by climate? and (d) What are implications of these results for response to climate change and use of ecotypes for restoration? Surprisingly, we did not detect consistent local adaptation. Rather, we detected co?gradient variation primarily for most vegetative responses. All ecotypes were stunted in western KS. Eastward, the wet ecotype was increasingly robust relative to other ecotypes. In contrast, fitness showed evidence for local adaptation in wet and dry ecotypes with wet and mesic ecotypes producing little seed in western KS. Earlier flowering time in the dry ecotype suggests adaptation to end of season drought. Considering ecotype traits in homesite, the dry ecotype was characterized by reduced canopy area and diameter, short plants, and low vegetative biomass and putatively adapted to water limitation. The wet ecotype was robust, tall with high biomass, and wide leaves putatively adapted for the highly competitive, light?limited Eastern Great Plains. Ecotype differentiation was supported by random forest classification and PCA. We detected genetic differentiation and outlier genes associated with primarily precipitation. We identified candidate gene GA1 for which allele frequency associated with plant height. Sourcing of climate adapted ecotypes should be considered for restoration.
Project description:Identifying suitable genetic stock for restoration often employs a 'best guess' approach. Without adaptive variation studies, restoration may be misguided. We test the extent to which climate in central US grasslands exerts selection pressure on a foundation grass big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), widely used in restorations, and resulting in local adaptation. We seeded three regional ecotypes of A. gerardii in reciprocal transplant garden communities across 1150 km precipitation gradient. We measured ecological responses over several timescales (instantaneous gas exchange, medium-term chlorophyll absorbance, and long-term responses of establishment and cover) in response to climate and biotic factors and tested if ecotypes could expand range. The ecotype from the driest region exhibited greatest cover under low rainfall, suggesting local adaptation under abiotic stress. Unexpectedly, no evidence for cover differences between ecotypes exists at mesic sites where establishment and cover of all ecotypes were low, perhaps due to strong biotic pressures. Expression of adaptive differences is strongly environment specific. Given observed adaptive variation, the most conservative restoration strategy would be to plant the local ecotype, especially in drier locations. With superior performance of the most xeric ecotype under dry conditions and predicted drought, this ecotype may migrate eastward, naturally or with assistance in restorations.
Project description:Boreal forests are experiencing dramatic climate change, having warmed 1.0°-1.9°C over the last century. Yet forest regeneration practices are often still dictated by a fixed seed zone framework, in which seeds are both harvested from and planted into predefined areas. Our goal was to determine whether seedlings sourced from southern seed zones in Minnesota USA are already better adapted to northerly seed zones because of climate change. Bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) and northern red oak (Quercus rubra) seedlings from two seed zones (i.e., tree ecotypes) were planted into 16 sites in two northern seed zones and measured for 3 yr. Our hypotheses were threefold: (1) tree species with more southern geographic distributions would thrive in northern forests where climate has already warmed substantially, (2) southern ecotypes of these species would have higher survival and growth than the northern ecotype in northern environments, and (3) natural selection would favor seedlings that expressed phenotypic and phenological traits characteristic of trees sourced from the more southern seed zone. For both species, survival was high (>93%), and southern ecotypes expressed traits consistent with our climate adaptation hypotheses. Ecotypic differences were especially evident for red oak; the southern ecotype had had higher survival, lower specific leaf area (SLA), faster height and diameter growth, and extended leaf phenology relative to the northern ecotype. Bur oak results were weaker, but the southern ecotype also had earlier budburst and lower SLA than the northern ecotype. Models based on the fixed seed zones failed to explain seedling performance as well as those with continuous predictors (e.g., climate and geographical position), suggesting that plant adaptations within current seed zone delineations do align with changing climate conditions. Adding support for this conclusion, natural selection favored traits expressed by the more southern tree ecotypes. Collectively, these results suggest that state seed sourcing guidelines should be reexamined to permit plantings across seed zones, a form of assisted migration. More extensive experiments (i.e., provenance trails) are necessary to make species-specific seed transfer guidelines that account for climate trends while also considering the precise geographic origin of seed sources.
Project description:Experimental tests of community assembly mechanisms for host-associated microbiomes in nature are lacking. Asymptomatic foliar fungal endophytes are a major component of the plant microbiome and are increasingly recognized for their impacts on plant performance, including pathogen defense, hormonal manipulation, and drought tolerance. However, it remains unclear whether fungal endophytes preferentially colonize certain host ecotypes or genotypes, reflecting some degree of biotic adaptation in the symbioses, or whether colonization is simply a function of spore type and abundance within the local environment. Whether host ecotype, local environment, or some combination of both controls the pattern of microbiome formation across hosts represents a new dimension to the age-old debate of nature versus nurture. Here, we used a reciprocal transplant design to explore the extent of host specificity and biotic adaptation in the plant microbiome, as evidenced by differential colonization of host genetic types by endophytes. Specifically, replicate plants from three locally-adapted ecotypes of the native grass Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) were transplanted at three geographically distinct field sites (one home and two away) in the Midwestern US. At the end of the growing season, plant leaves were harvested and the fungal microbiome characterized using culture-dependent sequencing techniques. Our results demonstrated that fungal endophyte community structure was determined by local environment (i.e., site), but not by host ecotype. Fungal richness and diversity also strongly differed by site, with lower fungal diversity at a riparian field site, whereas host ecotype had no effect. By contrast, there were significant differences in plant phenotypes across all ecotypes and sites, indicating ecotypic differentiation of host phenotype. Overall, our results indicate that environmental factors are the primary drivers of community structure in the switchgrass fungal microbiome.
Project description:The process of plant speciation often involves the evolution of divergent ecotypes in response to differences in soil water availability between habitats. While the same set of traits is frequently associated with xeric/mesic ecotype divergence, it is unknown whether those traits evolve independently or if they evolve in tandem as a result of genetic colocalization either by pleiotropy or genetic linkage. The self-fertilizing C4 grass species Panicum hallii includes two major ecotypes found in xeric (var. hallii) or mesic (var. filipes) habitats. We constructed the first linkage map for P. hallii by genotyping a reduced representation genomic library of an F2 population derived from an intercross of var. hallii and filipes. We then evaluated the genetic architecture of divergence between these ecotypes through quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping. Overall, we mapped QTLs for nine morphological traits that are involved in the divergence between the ecotypes. QTLs for five key ecotype-differentiating traits all colocalized to the same region of linkage group five. Leaf physiological traits were less divergent between ecotypes, but we still mapped five physiological QTLs. We also discovered a two-locus Dobzhansky-Muller hybrid incompatibility. Our study suggests that ecotype-differentiating traits may evolve in tandem as a result of genetic colocalization.
Project description:Local, wild-collected seeds of native plants are recommended for use in ecological restoration to maintain patterns of adaptive variation. However, some environments are so drastically altered by exotic, invasive weeds that original environmental conditions may no longer exist. Under these circumstances, cultivated varieties selected for improved germination and vigor may have a competitive advantage at highly disturbed sites. This study investigated differences in early establishment and seedling performance between wild and cultivated seed sources of the native grass, Poa secunda, both with and without competition from the invasive exotic grass, Bromus tectorum. We measured seedling survival and above-ground biomass at two experimental sites in western Montana, and found that the source of seeds selected for restoration can influence establishment at the restoration site. Cultivars had an overall advantage when compared with local genotypes, supporting evidence of greater vigor among cultivated varieties of native species. This advantage, however, declined rapidly in the presence of B. tectorum and most accessions were not significantly different for growth and survival in competition plots. Only one cultivar had a consistent advantage despite a strong decline in its performance when competing with invasive plants. As a result, cultivated varieties did not meet expectations for greater establishment and persistence relative to local genotypes in the presence of invasive, exotic species. We recommend the use of representative local or regional wild seed sources in restoration to minimize commercial selection, and a mix of individual accessions (wild, or cultivated when necessary) in highly invaded settings to capture vigorous genotypes and increase the odds native plants will establish at restoration sites.
Project description:Elytrigia atherica is a native invasive plant species whose expansion on salt marshes is attributed to genotypic and phenotypic adaptations to non-ideal environmental conditions, forming two ecotypes. It is unknown how E. atherica-microbiome interactions are contributing to its adaptation. Here we investigated the effect of sea-water flooding frequency and associated soil (a)biotic conditions on plant traits and root-associated microbial community composition and potential functions of two E. atherica ecotypes. We observed higher endomycorrhizal colonization in high-elevation ecotypes (HE, low inundation frequency), whereas low-elevation ecotypes (LE, high inundation frequency) had higher specific leaf area. Similarly, rhizosphere and endosphere bacterial communities grouped according to ecotypes. Soil ammonium content and elevation explained rhizosphere bacterial composition. Around 60% the endosphere amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) were also found in soil and around 30% of the ASVs were ecotype-specific. The endosphere of HE-ecotype harbored more unique sequences than the LE-ecotype, the latter being abundant in halophylic bacterial species. The composition of the endosphere may explain salinity and drought tolerance in relation to the local environmental needs of each ecotype. Overall, these results suggest that E. atherica is flexible in its association with soil bacteria and ecotype-specific dissimilar, which may enhance its competitive strength in salt marshes.
Project description:Despite evidence from previous case studies showing that agronomic traits partially determine the resulting yield of different rice (Oryza sativa L.) varieties, it remains unclear whether this is true at the ecotype level. Here, an extensive dataset of the traits of 7686 rice varieties, released in China from 1978 to 2017, was used to study the relationship between yield and other agronomic traits. We assessed the association between yield and other agronomic traits for four different rice ecotypes, i.e., indica inbred, indica hybrid, japonica inbred, and japonica hybrid. We found that associations between agronomic traits and yield were ecotype-dependent. For both the indica inbred and indica hybrid ecotypes, we found that greater values of certain traits, including the filled grain number per panicle, 1000-grain-weight, plant height, panicle length, grains per panicle, seed setting rate, long growth period, low panicle number per unit area, and low seed length/width ratio, have accounted for high grain yield. In the japonica inbred and japonica hybrid ecotypes, we found that only high panicle number per unit area and long growth period led to high grain yield. Indirectly, growth period consistently had a positive effect on yield in all ecotypes, and plant height had a positive effect on yield for the indicas and japonica inbred only. Plant height had a negative effect for the japonica hybrid. Altogether, our findings potentially have valuable implications for improving the breeds of rice ecotypes.
Project description:The mosaic distribution of interbreeding taxa with contrasting ecology and morphology offers an opportunity to study microevolutionary dynamics during ecological divergence. We investigate here the evolutionary history of an alpine and a montane ecotype of Heliosperma pusillum (Caryophyllaceae) in the south-eastern Alps. From six pairs of geographically close populations of the two ecotypes (120 individuals) we obtained a high-coverage restriction site associated DNA sequencing (RADseq) dataset that was used for demographic inference to test the hypothesis of parallel evolution of the two ecotypes. The data are consistent with repeated ecological divergence in H. pusillum, uncovering up to five polytopic origins of one ecotype from the other. A complex evolutionary history is evidenced, with local isolation-with-migration in two population pairs and intra-ecotype migration in two others. In all cases, the time of divergence or secondary contact was inferred as postglacial. A metagenomic analysis on exogenous contaminant RAD sequences suggests divergent microbial communities between the ecotypes. The lack of shared genomic regions of high divergence across population pairs illustrates the action of drift and/or local selection in shaping genetic divergence across repeated cases of ecological divergence.