Comparison of genetic diversity of the invasive weed Rubus alceifolius Poir. (Rosaceae) in its native range and in areas of introduction, using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers.
Theory predicts that colonization of new areas will be associated with population bottlenecks that reduce within-population genetic diversity and increase genetic differentiation among populations. This should be especially true for weedy plant species, which are often characterized by self-compatible breeding systems and vegetative propagation. To test this prediction, and to evaluate alternative scenarios for the history of introduction, the genetic diversity of Rubus alceifolius was studied with AFLP markers in its native range in southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Java and Sumatra) and in several areas where this plant has been introduced and is now a serious weed (Indian Ocean islands, Australia). In its native range, R. alceifolius showed great genetic variability within populations and among geographically close populations. In Madagascar, genetic variability was somewhat lower than in its native range, but still considerable. Each population sampled in the other Indian Ocean islands (Mayotte, La Réunion and Mauritius) was characterized by a single different genotype of R. alceifolius for the markers studied, and closely related to individuals from Madagascar. Queensland populations also included only a single genotype, identical to that found in Mauritius. These results suggest that R. alceifolius was first introduced into Madagascar, perhaps on multiple occasions, and that Madagascan individuals were the immediate source of plants that colonized other areas of introduction. Successive nested founder events appear to have resulted in cumulative reduction in genetic diversity. Possible explanations for the monoclonality of R. alceifolius in many areas of introduction are discussed.