Biogeographical Patterns of Caribbean Wetland Plant SpeciesEPA Grant Number: U915985
Title: Biogeographical Patterns of Caribbean Wetland Plant Species
Investigators: Rivera-Ocasio, Elsie
Institution: University of Puerto Rico - Central Administration
EPA Project Officer: Broadway, Virginia
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2004
Project Amount: $73,695
RFA: Minority Academic Institutions (MAI) Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2001) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Natural and Life Sciences , Biology/Life Sciences
The objectives of this research project are to: (1) determine the effect of colonization history and dispersal mechanism on the distribution of genetic diversity in the Caribbean wetland plant community; and (2) describe the distribution of genetic diversity of wetland plant species to determine the genetic status in this threatened ecosystem across the Caribbean basin. The degree of genetic structure and levels of diversity of plant populations depends on the spatial and temporal scales. At local scales, ecological factors such as limited pollen and local seed dispersal, as well as microhabitat selection and isolation, have been identified as the main forces causing genetic structure. At larger spatial scales, the distribution of the genetic diversity will be determined by the interaction of abiotic and biotic processes that operate at evolutionary and ecological scales.
To accomplish these objectives, I have collected leaves from seven wetland species across the Caribbean basin (e.g., Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa, Annona glabra, Rhizophora mangle, Conocarpus erectus, Acrostichum aureum, and Pterocarpus officinalis) for DNA analysis. Preliminary data of chloroplast sequences have shown differentiation among populations of some species (e.g., A. germinans), but no differentiation among populations of other species (e.g., C. erectus). These results suggest that despite the similarity in their habitat, other factors have influenced the degree of differentiation at the species level. DNA sequences in other regions of the genome (e.g., nuclear markers) and population genetic markers are being used to describe the phylogeographic patterns for the Caribbean wetland plant community.