Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012MI203B

Landscape and lake characteristics driving the genetic and species diversity of aquatic plants

Institute: Michigan
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $13,731 Total Non-Federal Funds: $26,943

Principal Investigators: Kendra Cheruvelil, Joseph Bump

Abstract: Problem: Diversity is essential for species, community, and ecosystem survival in the face of human-induced stressors, especially that of invasive species. Aquatic plants, which are important to lake and wetland primary production and ecosystem function, are particularly susceptible to low levels of diversity because of limited dispersal opportunities. However, we know little about patterns of aquatic plant genetic and species diversity or what landscape and lake factors drive those patterns. This lack of understanding limits our ability to predict the effects of human-induced stressors. We propose to collect data on aquatic plant genetic and species diversity on Isle Royal National Park (ISRO) and relate these data to lake and landscape factors; these data can inform ecology as well as aquatic plant management and restoration on the island and in the surrounding regions. Our study will have three major implications: 1) It will provide important baseline data about the aquatic plants on ISRO that will meet goals of the National Park Invasive Species Strategic plan (2008-2012) and complement terrestrially-focused research on the island. 2) It will help others predict aquatic invasive species introduction and establishment. The method of aquatic plant movement across the landscape (physical lake connections to other water bodies) is similar to the movement patterns of high-interest aquatic invasive species threats (e.g., zebra mussel, spiny water flea and sea lamprey larva) that do not rely on wind or air-mediated transport to reproduce or disperse, but travel to new locations through aquatic corridors or rely on human/animal or man-made vectors. Therefore, this study will provide information to help predict invasion susceptibility on ISRO by relating landscape and lake connectivity and genetically similar aquatic plant populations. 3) It will provide much-needed genetic information about aquatic plant species that can aid restoration ecologists with genotypes or cultivars that are likely to be successful in the Great Lakes region, especially the Lake Superior Basin. Conclusions gathered from this study can translate from ISRO to other lakes needing preservation of their natural populations or serving as source populations being used in restoration conservation. Methods: We will determine the aquatic plant genetic and species diversity among connected and isolated inland lakes on ISRO, with the expectation that higher diversity will be found among physically connected lakes. GIS will be used to select sample lakes that are either isolated or connected through physical aquatic connections and have physical attributes known to influence aquatic plant communities. To assess the influence of abiotic factors on species richness and genetic distributions of aquatic plants, physical and chemical data of each lake will be gathered and related to species presence and genetic diversity. Target species of aquatic plants will be sampled from isolated and connected lake populations and their genotypes compared in the lab. Genetic analysis will involve isolating chloroplast DNA and individuals from different lake populations will be genetically compared using Inter-Simple Sequence Repeat (ISSR) molecular markers. Lower genetic differentiation among populations indicates gene flow, and therefore we can infer connectivity among lakes. Objectives: Objectives of this project will include 1) classifying all ISRO lakes as either physically connected or isolated, 2) for a subset of those lakes, determining the physical and chemical lake features, 3) relating these features to genetic and species aquatic plant diversity, and 4) determining whether these relationships differ for connected vs. isolated lakes.