Will escaped transgenes lead to ecological release?

Authors

  • J. SCHMITT,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box G-W, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
      Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box G-W, Brown University, Providence, RI02912, USA. Tel. 401 863 3435. Fax 401 863 2166
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  • C. R. LINDER

    1. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box G-W, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
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  • J. Schmitt's general interests are plant population biology and ecological genetics. Research topics in her lab include the measurement of natural selection, seed ecology, maternal effects, the evolution of phenotypic plasticity, and the ecological impact of transgenic plants. C. R. Linder is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. He studies the ecological determinants of fitness of crop-wild hybrids and applies the results to assessing the fate of transgenes in the environment. He is also interested in using molecular techniques to advance plant population biology and quantitative genetics.

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Box G-W, Brown University, Providence, RI02912, USA. Tel. 401 863 3435. Fax 401 863 2166

Abstract

One potential effect of transgenes escaped from cultivation, either in crop plants themselves or introgressed into wild relatives, is release of the plants from ecological constraints that currently limit or control their distribution and abundance. Release may occur only within the community that the species presently occupies, or it may allow range expansion into new communities. Experience with ecological range expansions of invading plant species suggests that when ecological release occurs, the consequences can be severe. To assess properly the likelihood of ecological release, the factors that currently limit species' distributions and abundances must be determined by manipulative experiments. The effect of transgenes on these factors must then be investigated throughout the life cycle of the species and on a case-by-case basis. For ruderal annual species, seed survival and seedling establishment phases may be particularly important.

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