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Fine-scale niche differentiation and community genomics in Festuca ovina

Earlier studies on several species have demonstrated significant associations between individual isozyme phenotypes and fine-scale habitat variation in the steppe-like grasslands of the Great Alvar on Öland.

Our current research focusses on the perennial grass Festuca ovina. The species is widespread and common, and populations in the alvar grasslands show high levels of phosphoglucose isomerase (PGIC) enzyme polymorphism. Despite large population sizes and extensive gene flow, different PGI isozyme electromorphs are significantly associated with different grassland microhabitats. PGI is encoded by two loci in F. ovina: the "native" PgiC1 locus and the natural transgene PgiC2(f). Yuan Li's PhD project explored the structure of genetic variation within the PgiC1 gene in F. ovina. We have also recently shown that the within-individual presence of the transgenic PgiC2(f) locus is associated with edaphic niches in the alvar grasslands – suggesting that the transgene is contributing (together with the native locus) to fine-scale local adaptation.

We are using greenhouse experiments to investigate the response of F. ovina individuals, collected from different microhabitats, and with different PGI genotypes, to drought stress.

A collaborative project with Raj Whitlock is investigating genomic variation in relation to moisture stress in F. ovina sampled from the alvar microhabitats. The results from the study will be compared with those from Whitlock's study on F. ovina material exposed to different moisture treatments within the long-term climate experiment at Buxton (UK).

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