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Keywords:

  • genetic differentiation;
  • Heracleum mantegazzianum;
  • invasive plants;
  • microsatellites;
  • population genetics;
  • riparian

Abstract

The population genetic structure of an invasive, nonindigenous riparian weed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) in the northeast of England was investigated using microsatellite DNA markers. Data were used to assess the size and frequency of introductions into three catchments and the subsequent spread. We sampled 13 populations, including a remote population (Perivale, London) for comparison. Five loci were screened and considerable variation was found. Results revealed greater overall variation between populations from different catchments than those in the same catchment, and suggested the generation of population structure in the relatively short time since the initial introduction. Between-catchment variation may reflect population structure generated by local founders as the species spread and may indicate a large initial founder population at the time of the introduction into Britain, or multiple introductions. Within-catchment variation was consistent with expectations based on the water-borne dispersal of seeds in this species, and the relatively small dispersal range of likely pollinators. Independent introductions stand out in some cases as exceptions to the general pattern. Taken together the results are consistent with a relatively large initial founder population, and the subsequent spread of the species in local founder populations, followed by some level of inbreeding within local populations and novel introductions in some localities.