Hybridization and invasiveness in Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum): is prioritizing hybrids in management justified?
Hoff, Hannah Katherine
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Hybridization can play an important role in the evolution of invasiveness. Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum L.) is a widespread aquatic invasive plant species that hybridizes with native northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum Kom.). Previous studies have found mixed evidence for whether hybrid watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum x sibiricum) and pure M. spicatum differ in vegetative growth rate and herbicide response. While several studies have emphasized variation in these traits among M. spicatum x sibiricum genotypes, variation within M. spicatum has not been considered. Therefore, it is unclear how important genetic variation within M. spicatum, versus between M. spicatum and M. spicatum x sibiricum, is in influencing invasive traits and management outcomes. If M. spicatum x sibiricum genotypes are always more invasive than M. spicatum genotypes, simply distinguishing taxa may be sufficient for identifying lake management priorities; however, if significant phenotypic overlap is observed between taxa, distinguishing individual genotypes may be important for tailoring management strategies. We performed replicated trials of a vegetative growth and 2,4-D assay to measure clonal variation in growth rate and herbicide response of M. spicatum and M. spicatum x sibiricum. Our results indicate that M. spicatum x sibiricum exhibits higher average vegetative growth than M. spicatum, whether or not it is treated with 2,4-D. We did not observe interactions between taxon and treatment or between genotype and treatment. Despite differences between M. spicatum and M. spicatum x sibiricum in average vegetative growth, there was substantial overlap between taxa. For example, we found that the fastest-growing genotype of pure M. spicatum did not differ significantly in average growth from the fastest-growing M. spicatum x sibiricum genotype. The potential for overlap between these invasive Myriophyllum taxa suggests that distinguishing and characterizing genotypes may be more informative for management than simply distinguishing between M. spicatum and M. spicatum x sibiricum.