Rapid Genetic Decline in a Translocated Population of the Endangered Plant Grevillea scapigera

ABSTRACT: Grevillea scapigera is one of the world’s rarest plant species, currently known from only five plants in the wild. In 1995, 10 plants were selected from the 47 plants known at the time to act as genetically representative founders for translocation into secure sites. Ramets were micropropagated and introduced into one of these secure sites (Corrigin) in 1996, 1997, and 1998. By late 1998, 266 plants had been successfully trans-located and were producing large numbers of seeds. With the development of an artificial seed germination technique and because of an absence of seed germination in situ, seed was collected from these plants and germinated ex situ, and 161 seedlings were returned to the field site in winter 1999. We used the DNA finger-printing technique of amplified fragment-length polymorphism (AFLP) to (1) assess the genetic fidelity of the clones through the propagation process, (2) contrast genetic variation and average genetic similarities of theF1s to their parents to assess genetic decline, and (3) assign paternity to the reintroduced seeds to assess there productive success of each clone. We found that 8 clones, not 10, were present in the translocated population, 54% of all plants were a single clone, and the F1s were on average 22% more inbred and 20% less heterozygous than their parents, largely because 85% of all seeds were the product of only 4 clones. Ultimately,effective population size (Ne) of the founding population was approximately two. Our results highlight the difficulty of maintaining genetic fidelity through a large translocation program. More generally, rapid genetic decline may be a feature of many translocated populations when Ne is small, which may ultimately threaten their long-term survival. Strategies to reverse this genetic decline include equalizing founder numbers, adding new genotypes when discovered, optimizing genetic structure and plant density to promote multiple siring and reduce kinship, promoting natural seed germination in situ rather than artificially germinating seeds ex situ, and creating a meta population of numerous translocated populations to restore historical distribution patterns and processes.

Category: Papers General
Authors: Kruass, S. et al.
Publication Year: 2002

Related links