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Abstract Detail

Molecular Ecology

Stunz, Elizabeth [1], Mohl, Jonathan [2], Fetcher, Ned [3], Tang, Jim [4], Moody, Michael [5].

Molecular ecology of the arctic moist tundra sedge, tussock cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), in the context of local adaptation and climate change.

As the arctic warms, the geographic ranges of flora and fauna may shift. Currently open tundra dominated by grasses and sedges could become increasingly occupied by shrubs, changing the structure and function of the ecosystem. The tussock cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum) is a dominant plant in the moist tundra of northern Alaska. The decline of tussock cottongrass in the Arctic is a substantial concern as it is important for ecosystem stability as well as a major dietary component for grazing herbivores, birds and rodents in the Arctic. Reciprocal transplant studies across a latitudinal gradient have demonstrated home site advantage for flowering and survival rates of the sedge, as well as slightly increased survival for southern ecotypes when moved north, but not the inverse. We sampled 14 tussock cottongrass populations along a latitudinal gradient in northern central Alaska. NGS sequencing to investigate genome-wide SNPs revealed ecotypic variation and population structure across the range of E. vaginatum, including a genetic break between populations north and south of tree line. More populations around tree line were incorporated to further clarify this break. A population at Eagle Creek, a higher elevation environment (770 m) in the southern part of E. vaginatum's range, was also genetically differentiated from other populations. Three genetic clusters were found whether loci identified as candidate genes for selection or only neutral loci were included. Limited gene flow is supported by these results, in addition to potential selective traits conserved between regions. Variation in gene flow rates and direction between these populations were investigated, as well as correlations between genetic, geographic and environmental distances. NGS data was utilized to evaluate the gene flow, genetic structure and overall evolutionary potential of Eriophorum vaginatum to expand its range as the tundra warms and competition with shrubs is likely to increase.

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1 - 500 W University Ave, Pmb #369, El Paso, TX, 79968, United States
2 - University of Texas at El Paso, Bioinformatics, 500 W University Ave, El Paso, TX, 79968, USA
3 - Wilkes University, Biology, 84 West South Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 18766, USA
4 - Marine Biological Laboratory, The Ecosystems Center, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, MA, 02543-1015, USA
5 - 6212 Camino Alegre Dr., El Paso, TX, 79912, United States

evolutionary ecology
arctic plants
tussock cottongrass
Eriophorum vaginatum
population genetics
molecular ecology
moist tussock tundra

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 22, Molecular Ecology
Location: 107/Mayo Civic Center
Date: Tuesday, July 24th, 2018
Time: 9:30 AM
Number: 22006
Abstract ID:125
Candidate for Awards:None

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