2015 Climate Change & Seed Zones
Bluebunch Wheatgrass Molecular Genetics
Bluebunch wheatgrass is a long-lived perennial bunchgrass, and is a key component of many rangeland and forested ecosystems in the interior western United States. Plant communities with high bluebunch wheatgrass abundance have been shown to resist invasion by cheatgrass. Bluebunch wheatgrass is commonly used for restoration, but many restoration seedings have relied on seeds from distant sources that may be poorly adapted to local site conditions. The need for seed transfer guidelines has driven recent studies out by our Forest Service research team. We recently developed preliminary seed transfer zones for bluebunch wheatgrass in the northern Great Basin and Columbia Plateau through a common garden study. These seed zones are currently being verified and further refined using reciprocal transplants. This research will expand on these efforts by adding a molecular genetic component.
Previous workers have been successful at isolating genetic material, identifying molecular genetic markers, and characterizing genetic differentiation across the geographic range of bluebunch wheatgrass. However, previous work has not integrated molecular data with adaptive trait data, and has not been focused on the Northern Great Basin/Columbia Plateau region where our seed zone research has been carried out. Our proposed research will greatly augment previous genetic sampling of bluebunch wheatgrass in this region, using material that has already been collected from over 947 individual plants and 254 populations. Molecular data will be obtained from at least one individual from each population to address the question of genetic relatedness among populations, providing insights on genetic differentiation in relation to geography, environment and adaptive traits and the implications of these insights for seed transfer. For selected populations, multiple individuals will be sampled to address other relevant questions on genetic variation at the within-population level.