Genetic Analysis of Invasive Populations of Ventenata dubia (Poaceae): An Assessment of Propagule Pressure and Pattern of Range Expansion in the Western United States

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Molecular markers prove to be an invaluable tool in assessing the introduction dynamics, pattern of range expansion, and population genetics of an invasive species. Ventenata dubia (Leers) Coss. (Aveneae; ventenata) is a diploid, primarily self-pollinating, annual grass native to Eurasia and Northern Africa. The grass has a detailed herbarium collection history in the western United States since its discovery in eastern Washington in 1952. Genetic analysis of 51 invasive populations (1636 individuals) of V. dubia, coupled with historical records, suggests moderate propagule pressure from multiple introductions, followed by local or regional range expansion. Allozyme analysis detected nine multilocus genotypes (MLGs) across eight western US states. A single MLG, referred to as the most common genotype, was detected in 37 of 51 (72.5%) invasive populations across all states. The other eight MLGs were generally found in fewer populations, with limited geographic distributions. Despite multiple introductions, invasive populations exhibit low levels of genetic admixture, low levels of genetic diversity within populations (A = 1.03, %P = 2.94, Hexp = 0.007) and high genetic differentiation among populations (GST= 0.864). The apparent reduced evolutionary potential of most V. dubia populations did not preclude the initial establishment and rapid spread of this species across its new range in the western US.