Following its introduction to North America in the late nineteenth century, Bromus tectorum L., an inbreeding invasive winter annual grass, has become dominant on millions of hectares of sagebrush steppe habitat throughout Intermountain Western North America. It appears that within the last 30-40 years, B. tectorum has expanded its range southward into the Mojave Desert and also into more climatically extreme salt desert environments. Previous research using microsatellite markers and experimental studies has suggested that lineages found in desert habitats are genetically distinct from those found in the sagebrush-steppe habitat and possess suites of traits that pre-adapt them to these environments. To provide additional support for our hypothesis that desert habitat-specific haplotypes dominate and are widely distributed across warm and salt desert habitats, we genotyped approximately 20 individuals from each of 39 B. tectorum populations from these habitats and adjacent sagebrush steppe habitats using 71 single nucleotide polymorphic (SNP) markers. Our data clearly demonstrate that populations throughout the Mojave Desert region, as well as in salt desert habitats further north, are dominated by a small number of closely related SNP haplotypes that belong to the desert clade. In contrast, populations from adjacent environments are largely dominated by haplotypes of the common clade, which is widely distributed throughout the North American sagebrush steppe. Populations across all habitats were usually dominated by 1-2 SNP haplotypes. This suggests that inbreeding B. tectorum lineages can often maintain their genetic integrity. It also explains the strong association between marker fingerprints and suites of adaptive traits in this species.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



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Bromus tectorum, cheatgrass, single nucleotide polymorphism, SNP genotyping, Mojave Desert, Intermountain West, invasive species, ecological genetics