Type of Resources
Due to the increasing frequency of anthropogenic disturbances, greater effort needs to be put into identifying appropriate seed material for large scale restoration projects. The Bureau of Land Management created the Seeds of Success (SOS) project to increase stocks of native seeds for restoration projects following worsening disturbances. However, there is little known about the genetic composition of these seeds, so it is unclear if these seed accessions will be able to establish healthy and persistent native plant communities. This thesis identified that in 20 accessions of SOS seeds, inbreeding was low to moderate in 17 accessions, allelic richness was consistent in all accessions, and heterozygosity was consistent among 17 accessions. Genetic structure was less consistent, with species exhibiting structure between no accessions, one accession, or all three accessions. All these analyses need to be compared to a field restoration trial to identify how genetic characteristics compare with the ability to establish persistent and healthy native plant populations. Eriogonum umbellatum is a charismatic buckwheat that is extremely diverse in color, size, and geographic distribution, and therefore has been separated into forty-five varieties (Reveal 2005). However, it is unclear if all these varieties are separate evolutionary lineages, and therefore this work aimed to identify if there was ecological and genetic support for separating these organisms into independent taxonomic units. Four varieties native to Colorado were examined in this analysis: Eriogonum umbellatum varieties aureum, porteri, majus, and umbellatum. First, using boosted regression trees, their suitable habitat was identified using SEINet (2017) occurrence records and ecological data from AdaptWest (2015). It was identified that varieties aureum, porteri, and majus were high elevation specialists while variety umbellatum was more specific to lower elevation habitats. This was compared with field samples of each variety from Grand and Gunnison counties, where five microsatellite loci were used to identify differentiation between these taxa. There is no genetic difference between varieties aureum and porteri and these individuals are weakly differentiated from variety umbellatum, potentially by phenological differences. Variety majus was a distinct unit throughout all genetic analysis and clustered together in a dendrogram, suggesting that within Colorado majus’ white flowers are a synapomorphy. Further analysis will be needed to identify if these patterns are consistent throughout the ranges of these varieties. Our study highlights the importance of checking morphological assumptions with detailed genetic analysis. It is impossible to identify if a population is inbred in the field, and our analysis identified two seed accessions with high levels of inbreeding and one population with too low heterozygosity that may be unfit to use in restoration. Eriogonum umbellatum varieties aureum and porteri can be identified in the field as separate entities, but they represent one whole population. Species distribution models also identified different areas of suitable habitat for these varieties, suggesting that inaccurate identification of populations will also bias species distribution models. Overall, by using genetic analysis, we can better inform conservation protocols and allocate resources and time better to remediate current damage to ecosystems.
Dean's Citation for Excellence
Copyright is held by the author.