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Evolution of a new ecotype of Spartina Alterniflora (Poaceae) in San Francisco Bay, California, USA
journal contributionposted on 2007-06-11, 09:09 authored by Curtis C. Daehler, Carina K. Anttila, Debra R. Ayres, Donald R. Strong, John P. Bailey
We report the discovery and spread of a dwarf ecotype of Spartina alterniflora in San Francisco Bay. Relative to typical S. alterniflora, this dwarf ecotype has one-fifth the tiller height (~21 cm), tenfold the tiller density (~4000 tillers/m²), and is restricted to growth in the upper intertidal zone. Chromosome counts of the dwarfs are identical to typical smooth cordgrass (2n = 62), and smooth cordgrass-specific random amplified DNA markers confirm the species identity of the dwarf. Field-collected clonal fragments of the dwarf grown for 2 yr under high-nutrient conditions maintained the dwarf syndrome, as did plants grown from the seed of a dwarf. The dwarf condition is not caused by endophytic fungi. The first dwarf smooth cordgrass patch was discovered in 1991, and by 1996 five separate dwarf patches had appeared within 200 m of the original. Since 1991, total area covered by the dwarf ecotype has increased sixfold to 140 m². The ecological range of the dwarf smooth cordgrass ecotype is similar to that of S. patens, a competitor on the Atlantic coast. We suggest that the absence of S. patens from most of San Francisco Bay has allowed the dwarf ecotype of smooth cordgrass to survive and spread.