© 2016 The Linnean Society of London. Acacia loderi, the ecosystem engineer of the endangered Acacia loderi Shrublands in arid eastern Australia, spans a persistent (> 15 000 year) but poorly studied landscape feature, the Darling River. We investigated the genetic structure of 19 stands of eight to > 1000 plants separated by <300 km to test for variation in life histories between semi-arid and arid stands to the east and west of the Darling River, respectively. Eight of nine stands east of the Darling were exclusively sexual, whereas most of those to the west were clonal. Three western stands were monoclonal, two were polyploid, and one was a diverse mix of diploid and triploid phenotypes. Bayesian analysis revealed a complex genetic structure within the western stands, whereas the eastern stands formed only two genetic clusters. Conservation of small stands may require augmentation of genotypic diversity. However, most genotypic diversity resides within the eastern stands. Although arid zone stands of A. loderi are not always clonal, clonality and polyploidy are more common in the arid west. Clear demarcation of life histories either side of the Darling River may reflect ancient or contemporary effects of physical disturbance associated with the river channel, or cryptic environmental differences, with sexual and asexual reproduction, respectively, at a selective premium in the semi-arid east and arid west. The restricted distribution of clones and variation in clonality and polyploidy suggests that smaller stands may be vulnerable and warrant individual management.
Roberts, D., Forrest, C. N., Denham, A. J., & Ayre, D. J. (2016). Varying levels of clonality and ploidy create barriers to gene flow and challenges for conservation of an Australian arid-zone ecosystem engineer, Acacia loderi. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 118(2), 330-343. https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12728