BEN
BOTANICAL ELECTRONIC NEWS
ISSN 1188-603X


No. 233 October 2, 1999 aceska@freenet.victoria.tc.ca Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITY - NATIVE PLANTS IN COMMON GARDENS

From: Phil &/or Carla Burton [symbios@mail.bulkley.net]

Symbios Research & Restoration has established a set of common gardens for over 25 species of herbaceous vascular plants indigenous to northern British Columbia, Canada. In support of research to develop a broadly adapted source of commercially available seed for use in ecosystem restoration and revegetation, we have collected seed from throughout the northern Interior of British Columbia (52 to 60 N, from the Northern Rocky Mountains to the northern Coast Range). Plants propagated from this seed have been established in randomized neighbourhoods in cultivated gardens in order to facilitate outcrossing and maximum seed production; no active selection is being undertaken. All plants are labelled with their origin, and we have information on the source of each accession (latitude, longitude, elevation, habitat, etc.).

Species in cultivation with approximately 7 to 50 accessions each include the following:

The 2000 field season will be the last year in which this project is supported by Forest Renewal B.C. Maintenance of (thousands of) accession labels in all plots is very time-consuming and expensive, and will not be continued unless this information is going to be used for additional research. One project which has already made use of this installation consisted of a correlation of eletrophoretic and quantitative traits in Elymus glaucus (Bryan, I.E. 1999 M.Sc. thesis, under the direction of Kermit Ritland, University of British Columbia).

We are particularly interested in ascertaining the degree of outcrossing in different species, and in quantifying the degree of genetic variability (measured using any number of methods) within and among populations, generations, ecological zones and geographic districts. Such topics should be very suitable for M.Sc. students. This opportunity would be of interest to population geneticists, evolutionary ecologists and other plant biologists interested in genetic variability and its correlation with morphological traits and geographic origins.

No financial support for additional research is available, but plot maintenance and accession records represent a considerable investment that will not have to be repeated. In addition, one of our research partners, the Canadian Forest Service, is able to provide free accommodation for up to two or three researchers at their Smithers Field Station, the site of one set of common gardens. The town of Smithers (population 5,600) is located in the broad, pastoral Bulkley Valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks and marvelous outdoor recreational opportunities (kayaking, hiking/trekking, trail riding, fly fishing, wilderness camping, etc.) in Northwestern B.C. halfway between the cities of Prince George and Prince Rupert. Smithers also has a vibrant artistic community, with outdoor music festivals and workshops during the summer months.

Please see http://www.bulkley.net/~symbios/native.htm for a further description of this project and related research. Please e-mail Dr. Phil Burton at symbios@mail.bulkley.net if you or your students might consider working with us on the population genetics of these species next year. Early replies would be appreciated, so we can plan accordingly.


BIOLOGICAL CONTROL OF PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE IN VANCOUVER, B.C.

From: Judith Myers [myers@zoology.ubc.ca]

Biological control of purple loosestrife is having an effect at Jericho Park, Vancouver, British Columbia.

Wetlands across northern North America have been invaded by a European plant - purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria. A good example of this invasion occurred in the west pond at Jericho Park. Purple loosestrife is an attractive plant, with pretty purple flowers. However, it is capable of displacing native plants in wetland sites, and in the early 1990's the West Pond and Jericho Park was nearly a monoculture of this weed. In 1993 we released 30 individuals of a European beetle Galerucella calmariensis that feeds exclusively on purple loosestrife. These had been reared at the Agriculture and Agrifood Canada Laboratory in Lethbridge Alberta. In 1996 beetles collected from a site in Ontario where they had been effective at reducing loosestrife densities were also released at Jericho. By this year these leaf feeding beetles have reached high densities and are having a major impact on the loosestrife plants - most have been killed.

Research being carried out by graduate student Madlen Denoth (Zoology Dept., UBC) and her assistant Janis Newhouse, under the supervision of Judy Myers, Zoology and Agricultural Sciences, UBC) has tracked the impact of the beetles on the plants. Beetles have now been released at a number of sites around the lower mainland, but they have shown the greatest impact at Jericho and several sites near Chilliwack. The research project is looking at why the beetles are more effective at some sites than others.

For those familiar with the history of purple loosestrife in Jericho Park, the plants killed by beetles is a pleasant sight. In an adjacent pond with lower purple loosestrife densities plants have been aggressively pulled by interested citizens in their war on loosestrife. The beetles are good dispersers so we hope they will find new sites in the Jericho area. About 500 beetles have been moved from this site to a new location in Langley.

In addition to the work on biological control the study is looking at interactions between purple loosestrife and two rare marshland plants, Sidalcea hendersonii and Caltha palustris subsp. asarifolia, marsh marigold, to measure the potential impact of the invader on native vegetation.

This research has been funded by the Habitat Conservation Fund and the World Wildlife Fund.


BRYOPHYTES AS INDICATORS OF GLOBAL WARMING?

From: Jan-Peter Frahm [unb11d@mailin.uni-bonn.de]

Between 1985 and 1996, sixteen bryophyte species which have a Mediterranean, Mediterranean Atlantic or Atlantic distribution were found in Central Europe. Twelve were found there for the first time, the remaining four had been found in the past but had disappeared. These spectacular extensions of range of several hundred kilometers were correlated by Frahm & Klaus (1997) with an increase in mean temperature of the winter months December, January and February by 1.5 C. It was expected that bryophytes from warmer parts of Europe would not react to warmer summers as strongly as they would to milder winters. At the same time, the 3.5 C January isotherm of these months, which had crossed Paris before, had moved 400 km east and ran now through Germany. Since the publication of this paper, eleven more species have been discovered as new to Central Europe. This may be only the 'tip of the iceberg', because of the relatively low number of floristic studies being done there. We can therefore argue that there are undoubtedly more species and more records because of the few bryologists doing field work in Central Europe.

There are still a number of colleagues who argue that these species had perhaps always been there but had simply been over-looked. This argument can generally not be excluded; however, were 27 species overlooked before and discovered in a period of 12 years? It is an ecologically simple conclusion that these species adapted to mild climates following the January isotherm. Bryophytes can react very quickly and easily to such climatic changes, especially changes that occur during winter months. Finally, there have always been climatic changes to which plants react, but there have never been such dramatic climatic and floristic changes in such a short period of time in the past two centuries.

This increase in the number of bryophyte species in Central Europe was interpreted as the reaction of organisms to present climatic fluctuations in that region. These climatic changes are, however, not confined to Europe but are global in nature. Therefore I would like to put the question here whether such floristic changes in bryophytes have been found elsewhere in the world. Have any similar effects been observed in other parts of the world? Effects of global warming on many other groups of organisms have been noted. Can bryophytes be used as indicators of global warming?

Frahm, J.-P. & D. Klaus. 1997.
Moose als Indikatoren von Klimafluktuationen in Mitteleuropa. Erdkunde 51: 181-190.


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