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Research Abstracts Online
January 2008 - March 2009

University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Biological Sciences
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

PI: Ruth G. Shaw

Echinacea: Ecology and Evolution in Fragmented Prairie Habitat

This project studies the genetics and ecology of Echinacea angustifolia, a long-lived perennial plant native to the plains and prairie of the United States. Land-use changes over the past century have eliminated prairie habitat, confining populations of this typical prairie plant to small remnants. Previous work has revealed feedbacks between the genetics and demography of E. angustifolia. To clarify the effects of these feedbacks on the persistence and ongoing evolution of this plant, this project continues the annual census of all flowering plants of E. angustifolia growing in 23 prairie remnants within a 6,400-hectare study area in Minnesota. It includes intensive searches for seedlings and subsequent monitoring of their survival to evaluate recruitment rates among remnant populations. This research also continues to monitor plants in three experiments designed to 1) characterize divergence among remnant populations in the health, survival, and reproduction of individuals, 2) determine how inbreeding and inter-remnant mating affect progeny fitness, and 3) assess genetic variation in the fragmented populations. This project contributes substantively to understanding of the population biology of long-lived herbaceous plants. Results from this project inform the conservation and management of perennial populations in fragmented habitat.

Group Members

Christine Dumoulin, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois
Gretel Kiefer, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois
Stuart Wagenius, Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois