Bromus tectorum (Poaceae) in Midcontinental United States: Population Genetic Analysis of an Ongoing Invasion

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Biological invasions can be substantially influenced by the genetic sampling associated with a species’ introduction. As a result, we assessed the genetic and evolutionary consequences of the entry and spread of the invasive grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) across the United States midcontinent through an analysis of 54 populations, using enzyme electrophoresis. On average, these populations display 1.04 alleles per locus (A), 4.1% percent polymorphic loci per population (%P) and an expected mean heterozygosity (Hexp) value of 0.009. Heterozygotes, which have been rarely reported for B. tectorum in North America, occur in three populations in the midcontinent and are likely novel multilocus genotypes that arose postimmigration. The midcontinent distribution of multilocus genotypes suggests that plant immigrants came directly from either the native range or the eastern United States, or both. Continued dispersal of preadapted genotypes and the assembly of populations that are genetic admixtures may enhance this invasion by increasing both the genetic diversity within populations and the selection of novel genotypes arising from occasional outcrossing. The potential for postimmigration evolution in most species points to the largely unrecognized need to block the introduction of new, potentially aggressive genotypes of an alien species already in the United States.