Multi-Scale Genetic Analysis of Uniola Paniculata (Poaceae): a Coastal Species With a Linear, Fragmented Distribution

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allozymes, clonal structure, coastal plants, gene flow, population genetics, sea oats, southeastern United States, Uniola paniculata

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Geographic and fine-scale population genetic structures of Uniola paniculata, the dominant coastal dune grass in the southeastern USA, were examined. The linear, naturally fragmented distribution of this native perennial was hypothesized to lead to high genetic structure and lower genetic diversity at the margin of the species range. The extensive ramet production and low seed germination of this species were also expected to cause populations to be dominated by a few large clones. At 20 sites throughout the range of the species, leaf tissue was collected from 48 individuals. Clonal structure was examined using leaf tissue collected from an additional 60 individuals, each in four patches at two sites. Starch gel electrophoresis was used to resolve 27 allozyme loci. The results indicated that Uniola had greater genetic structure (GST = 0.304) than most other outcrossing species, indicating moderate barriers to gene flow. There was a weak but significant positive relationship between genetic distance and geographic distance, supporting an isolation-by-distance model of gene flow. There were no obvious disjunctions between regions. Genetic diversity (He) was relatively uniform throughout most of the range of the species but was lower in all western Gulf of Mexico populations. Clonal diversity varied both within and among sites, but clones were often small, suggesting that sexual reproduction and recruitment from seeds are important factors maintaining genetic diversity.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

American Journal of Botany, v. 91, issue 9, p. 1345-1351