Low genetic diversity contrasts with high phenotypic variability in heptaploid Spartina densiflora populations invading the Pacific coast of North America

Abstract : Species can respond to environmental pressures through genetic and epigenetic changes and through phenotypic plasticity, but few studies have evaluated the relationships between genetic differentiation and phenotypic plasticity of plant species along changing environmental conditions throughout wide latitudinal ranges. We studied inter- and intrapopulation genetic diversity (using simple sequence repeats and chloroplast DNA sequencing) and inter- and intrapopulation phenotypic variability of 33 plant traits (using field and common-garden measurements) for five populations of the invasive cordgrass Brongn. along the Pacific coast of North America from San Francisco Bay to Vancouver Island. Studied populations showed very low genetic diversity, high levels of phenotypic variability when growing in contrasted environments and high intrapopulation phenotypic variability for many plant traits. This intrapopulation phenotypic variability was especially high, irrespective of environmental conditions, for those traits showing also high phenotypic plasticity. Within-population variation represented 84% of the total genetic variation coinciding with certain individual plants keeping consistent responses for three plant traits (chlorophyll and carotenoid contents, and dead shoot biomass) in the field and in common-garden conditions. These populations have most likely undergone genetic bottleneck since their introduction from South America; multiple introductions are unknown but possible as the population from Vancouver Island was the most recent and one of the most genetically diverse. appears as a species that would not be very affected itself by climate change and sea-level rise as it can disperse, establish, and acclimate to contrasted environments along wide latitudinal ranges.
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Jesús Castillo, Stephane Dréano, Jesus Castillo, Blanca Gallego-Tévar, Enrique Figueroa, et al.. Low genetic diversity contrasts with high phenotypic variability in heptaploid Spartina densiflora populations invading the Pacific coast of North America. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2018, 8 (10), pp.4992-5007. ⟨10.1002/ece3.4063⟩. ⟨hal-01832711⟩

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