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Title: Ecological adaptation of the endemic Shepherdia rotundifolia to conditions in its Colorado Plateau range

Author: Sriladda, Chalita; Kjelgren, Roger; Kratsch, Heidi; Monaco, Thomas; Larson, Steven; Shen, FenAnn;

Date: 2014

Source: Western North American Naturalist. 74(1): 79-91.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Due to limited water supplies, use of drought-tolerant species to conserve water in irrigated urban landscapes is increasingly important in the Intermountain West. The Colorado Plateau endemic shrub Shepherdia rotundifolia Parry is a potential candidate for use in sustainable urban low-water landscapes (LWLs) for its aesthetic and drought-tolerant qualities. However, the species is difficult to establish in urban landscapes of different fertility and water availability than found in regional native habitats. A better understanding of environmental and genetic constraints, as well as morphological adaptation in native habitats, may facilitate greater use of S. rotundifolia in LWLs. The goal of this study was to investigate variability in environmental conditions, morphology, and genetics among 6 populations of S. rotundifolia along an elevation gradient (range 1200-2500 m) in the species' native range. Aboveground environmental conditions were characterized from 30-year proximal weather station data, intra-annual weather collected on-site, and site relative light intensity (RLI) from hemispherical canopy images. Belowground, we analyzed site-specific soils for texture, pH, salinity, organic matter (OM), and macronutrients. We characterized plant morphology and genetics from leaf area and specific leaf area (SLA), scanning electron microscopic imaging of trichome structure and leaf thickness, and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) genetic varia tion among populations. Precipitation, air temperature, RLI, and soil properties varied widely among populations. Differences among leaf area, SLA, and leaf trichome structure suggest population-level adaptations consistent with environmental differences, particularly between high- and low-elevation populations. Similarly, distinct AFLP banding patterns among high- and low-elevation populations suggest differences due to isolation by distance. SLA was correlated with RLI, OM, and potassium (K). Relatively high native levels and positive correlation with SLA suggest that K may be a limiting factor in urban landscape soils. Selection of plants adapted to environmental conditions similar to those present in urban landscapes may enhance successful use of S. rotundifolia. Genetic variation also suggests potential for cultivar selection.

Keywords: Shepherdia rotundifolia, endemic shrub, Colorado Plateau

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Sriladda, Chalita; Kjelgren, Roger; Kratsch, Heidi; Monaco, Thomas; Larson, Steven; Shen, FenAnn. 2014. Ecological adaptation of the endemic Shepherdia rotundifolia to conditions in its Colorado Plateau range. Western North American Naturalist. 74(1): 79-91.


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