U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Fine‐scale genetic diversity and landscape‐scale genetic structuring in three foundational bulrush species: implications for wetland revegetation

Kettenring, Karin M., Mossman, Bret N., Downard, Rebekah, Mock, Karen E.
Restoration ecology 2019 v.27 no.2 pp. 408-420
Bolboschoenus maritimus, Schoenoplectus acutus, Schoenoplectus americanus, conservation areas, digestion, ecological function, fish, gene flow, genetic analysis, genetic variation, lakes, land restoration, landscapes, migratory birds, plant establishment, seed collecting, seed dormancy, seeds, waterfowl, wetlands, Great Salt Lake, Utah
The appropriate sourcing of seeds for restoration is critical for establishing foundational plant species that support ecosystem functions and services. Genetic analyses of such species can yield insights into patterns of genetic diversity and structuring to inform seed collections. Here we document, for three foundational bulrush species, distinct genetic patterns to guide restoration of wetlands along the iconic Great Salt Lake, the largest lake in western North America. Specifically, Schoenoplectus acutus and Schoenoplectus americanus had moderate levels of site‐scale genet richness and relatively low genet richness levels within 1‐m² plots. These patterns contrast with Bolboschoenus maritimus, which had higher levels of site‐ and plot‐level genet richness, and has therefore likely experienced more recent seedling establishment. At the landscape scale, we found some evidence for genetic isolation of individuals at more remote sites (namely Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge in the West Desert of Utah), but all species are relatively well dispersed over hundreds of kilometers, a pattern most likely to occur via avian dispersal. In our mechanistic dispersal assessment, we found abundant bulrush seeds present in waterfowl gizzards and those seeds germinated readily despite (or because of) partial digestion. Migratory waterfowl likely facilitate the broad dispersal of all species and may aid in bulrush establishment by breaking seed dormancy. These findings suggest that seeds for restoration should be collected within and among seed source sites to ensure a diverse restoration seed lot that does not disrupt gene flow patterns.