Landscape genetic approaches to guide native plant restoration in the Mojave Desert

Ecological Applications
By: , and 

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Abstract

Restoring dryland ecosystems is a global challenge due to synergistic drivers of disturbance coupled with unpredictable environmental conditions. Dryland plant species have evolved complex life-history strategies to cope with fluctuating resources and climatic extremes. Although rarely quantified, local adaptation is likely widespread among these species and potentially influences restoration outcomes. The common practice of reintroducing propagules to restore dryland ecosystems, often across large spatial scales, compels evaluation of adaptive divergence within these species. Such evaluations are critical to understanding the consequences of large-scale manipulation of gene flow and to predicting success of restoration efforts. However, genetic information for species of interest can be difficult and expensive to obtain through traditional common garden experiments. Recent advances in landscape genetics offer marker-based approaches for identifying environmental drivers of adaptive genetic variability in non-model species, but tools are still needed to link these approaches with practical aspects of ecological restoration. Here, we combine spatially-explicit landscape genetics models with flexible visualization tools to demonstrate how cost-effective evaluations of adaptive genetic divergence can facilitate implementation of different seed sourcing strategies in ecological restoration. We apply these methods to Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism (AFLP) markers genotyped in two Mojave Desert shrub species of high restoration importance: the long-lived, wind-pollinated gymnosperm Ephedra nevadensis, and the short-lived, insect-pollinated angiosperm Sphaeralcea ambigua. Mean annual temperature was identified as an important driver of adaptive genetic divergence for both species. Ephedra showed stronger adaptive divergence with respect to precipitation variability, while temperature variability and precipitation averages explained a larger fraction of adaptive divergence in Sphaeralcea. We describe multivariate statistical approaches for interpolating spatial patterns of adaptive divergence while accounting for potential bias due to neutral genetic structure. Through a spatial bootstrapping procedure, we also visualize patterns in the magnitude of model uncertainty. Finally, we introduce an interactive, distance-based mapping approach that explicitly links marker-based models of adaptive divergence with local or admixture seed sourcing strategies, promoting effective native plant restoration.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Landscape genetic approaches to guide native plant restoration in the Mojave Desert
Series title Ecological Applications
DOI 10.1002/eap.1447
Volume 27
Issue 2
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 17 p.
First page 429
Last page 445
Country United States
Other Geospatial Mojave Desert
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