Getting here from there: testing the genetic paradigm underpinning introduction histories and invasion success


Correspondence: Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences PO Box 780, Atherton, Qld 4883, Australia.


Aim  To explore the potential of genetic processes and mating systems to influence successful plant invasions, we compared genetic diversity of the highly invasive tropical treelet, Miconia calvescens, in nine invasive populations and three native range populations. Specifically, we tested how genetic diversity is partitioned in native and invaded regions, which have different invasion histories (multiple vs. single introductions). Lastly, we infer how levels of inbreeding in different regions impact invasion success.

Location  Invaded ranges in the Pacific (Hawaii, Tahiti, New Caledonia) and Australia and native range in Costa Rica.

Methods  Genetic diversity was inferred by analysing variation at nine microsatellite loci in 273 individuals from 13 populations of M. calvescens. Genetic structure was assessed using amova, isolation by distance (IBD) within regions, a Bayesian clustering approach, and principal coordinates analysis.

Results  Microsatellite analysis revealed that invaded regions exhibit low levels of allelic richness and genetic diversity with few private alleles. To the contrary, in the native range, we observed high levels of allelic richness, high heterozygosity and 78% of all private alleles. Surprisingly, despite evident genetic bottlenecks in all invasive regions, similarly high levels of inbreeding were detected in both invasive and native ranges (FIS: 0.345 and 0.399, respectively). Bayesian clustering analysis showed a lack of geographical structure in the Pacific and evidence of differing invasion histories between the Pacific and Australia. While Pacific populations are derived from a single introduction to the region, multiple introductions have taken place in Australia from different source regions.

Main conclusions  Multiple introductions have not resulted in increased genetic diversity for M. calvescens invasions. Moreover, similar inbreeding levels between native and invaded ranges suggests that there is no correlation between levels of inbreeding and levels of standing genetic diversity for M. calvescens. Overall, our results show that neither inbreeding nor low genetic diversity is an impediment to invasion success.