The potential for genetic contamination vs. augmentation by native plants in urban gardens

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Biological Conservation, ISSN: 0006-3207, Vol: 128, Issue: 4, Page: 493-500

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Robert J. Whelan; David G. Roberts; Phillip R. England; David J. Ayre
Elsevier BV
Agricultural and Biological Sciences; Environmental Science; potential; for; genetic; contamination; augmentation; native; plants; urban; gardens; Life Sciences; Physical Sciences and Mathematics; Social and Behavioral Sciences
article description
Native plants in gardens can potentially aid conservation by contributing to genetic diversity and buffering small and otherwise isolated populations from extinction. However, gene flow from such plantings may threaten the genetic integrity of natural populations. We assessed the morphological and genetic diversity of garden plants in an urban population of Grevillea macleayana in south-eastern Australia. There were two main groups of garden plants: some similar to plants in nearby natural populations; others with unusual morphology. Multivariate analysis of morphological characters separated these groupings, which were confirmed by genetic analysis. Both groups produced seeds and flowering phenologies overlapped, indicating a potential for gene flow. Hand pollination showed that plants in each group could fertilize flowers of the other. Thus, these garden plants contributed to genetic variation in an urban/bushland metapopulation but there was potential for gene flow from the unusual plants. Unless carefully managed, garden plants may therefore cause disruption of the genetic integrity of nearby natural populations.