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Phenotypes of Two Generations of Sporobolus airoides Seedlings Derived from Acroptilon repens-invaded and Non-invaded Grass Populations


A. L. Hild, email


Although the ecological impacts of invasive species are well known, the evolutionary impacts on recipient native grass communities are not. We suggest that remnant native plants may provide desirable seed sources for restoration and native plant production. Native populations exposed to the selective pressures associated with exotic invasion may retain traits that increase their ability to coexist with invasive species. Two generations of Sporobolus airoides Torr. (Alkali sacaton) plants derived from lineages collected from within long-term invaded areas of Acroptilon repens (L.) DC (Russian knapweed) and from adjacent non-invaded areas were propagated in a greenhouse to evaluate generational changes in phenotypic traits from the production environment. Given the difference in invasion history of the two populations, we hypothesized that invaded and non-invaded subpopulations would differ phenotypically. Phenotypic measurements revealed that invaded subpopulations had greater vegetative growth, whereas non-invaded subpopulations had increased sexual reproduction. Phenotypic expression changed from the first to the second generation, predominantly in the invaded subpopulation. Generational phenotypic shifts are disadvantageous for native seed production which requires a standard product to sell commercially. However, phenotypic variation may improve field seed survival. This research demonstrates the potential value of targeting post-invasion remnant grass populations for restoration.