Genetic analysis of native and introduced populations of the aquatic weed Sagittaria platyphylla - implications for biological control in Australia and South Africa.
Sagittaria platyphylla (Engelm.) J.G. Sm. (Alismataceae) is an emergent aquatic plant native to southern USA. Imported into Australia and South Africa as an ornamental and aquarium plant, the species is now a serious invader of shallow freshwater wetlands, slow-flowing rivers, irrigation channels, drains and along the margins of lakes and reservoirs. As a first step towards initiating a classical biological control program, a population genetic study was conducted to determine the prospects of finding compatible biological control agents and to refine the search for natural enemies to source populations with closest genetic match to Australian and South African genotypes. Using AFLP markers we surveyed genetic diversity and population genetic structure in 26 populations from the USA, 19 from Australia and 7 from South Africa. Interestingly, we have established that populations introduced into South Africa and to a lesser extent Australia have maintained substantial molecular genetic diversity comparable with that in the native range. Results from principal coordinates analysis, population graph theory and Bayesian-based clustering analysis all support the notion that introduced populations in Australia and South Africa were founded by multiple sources from the USA. Furthermore, the divergence of some Australian populations from the USA suggests that intraspecific hybridization between genetically distinct lineages from the native range may have occurred. The implications of these findings in relation to biological control are discussed.