Biology ETDs

Publication Date



It is increasingly important that plant propagules used in revegetation projects are from a location that is geographically or ecologically similar to the planting site. To better understand the consequences of using non-local plant materials, I chose to study the population biology of the widespread shrub winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata, Chenopodiaceae) among five populations in New Mexico, USA. Winterfat plant morphology among the five populations was compared, and the rate of emergence and floral onset was measured in a greenhouse common garden. A reciprocal transplant experiment was planted in which individuals from different locations were planted in replicate common gardens. Transplant survival, size, and reproduction were quantified for two years. To complement the morphological studies, the genetic structure of winterfat was quantified using nine isozyme loci. Genetic variation, population differentiation, and correlations among genetic, geographic, and ecological distance were assessed. The five sites differed in plant community composition, annual climate, and soil properties. Seeds from the five sites grown in a greenhouse common garden differed in their rates of emergence and floral onset. Evidence for local adaptation was revealed at the colder study sites, where a higher proportion of local individuals survived and reproduced relative to non-local individuals. Isozyme banding patterns revealed very little genetic differentiation and high gene flow among the populations. This suggests that selective forces were strong enough to produce locally adapted individuals despite high levels of gene flow. The more robust performance of winterfat plants from higher-elevation, colder sites indicates that moving plant materials from higher elevations to lower elevations and from higher latitudes to lower latitudes will be more successful than when moved in the opposite direction. When available, information on the population biology and breeding system of target species can be useful for predicting potential consequences of choosing non-local seed sources. However, high levels of gene flow among the populations in this study did not prevent local adaptation from developing, which suggests that care should be taken when choosing plant materials for restoration projects.

Project Sponsors

Garden Club of America, T & E Incorporated, University of New Mexico Biology Department, University of New Mexico Graduate and Professional Student Association, University of New Mexico Office of Graduate Studies, University of New Mexico Biology Graduate Student Association




restoration genetics, reciprocal transplant, common garden, isozyme variation, winterfat, Krascheninnikovia lanata, Chenopodiaceae, revegetation

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Pockman, William

Second Committee Member

Rice, Kevin

Third Committee Member

Turner, Thomas