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Genetic Structure of Threatened Native Populations and Propagules Used for Restoration in a Clonal Species, American Beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata Fern.)


Address correspondence to J. B. Fant, email


An important goal of native plant restorations was to reconstitute populations that are genetically similar to native ones, thereby increasing the probably of successful establishment and persistence. We examined the extent to which this goal has been accomplished in Great Lakes restorations of Ammophila breviligulata Fern., a beachgrass species that is widely used for habitat restoration and is considered threatened in the study areas. In parallel studies on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, we used polymorphic Intersimple Sequence Repeat markers to assess genetic similarity between well-established and new native populations, restored populations, and restoration propagules obtained from two commercial suppliers. Native populations were generally more diverse than expected for a clonal species, whereas the commercially cultivated releases were monotypic. One of the commercial releases used in Minnesota was exclusively found in restored populations and did not occur in any other native population at this site. The propagules used in the newly planted restoration in Illinois were derived from a release that commercial suppliers maintain was derived from a native Michigan population, as opposed to a selected release. Diversity in this restoration was equivalent to that native Illinois’ populations; however, many of the genotypes were not of local origin. Overall, study underscores the importance of obtaining baseline genetic surveys of remnant native populations and restoration propagules before restoration efforts are initiated, especially when the populations are threatened or endangered.