Conservation genetics is the application of evolutionary and molecular genetics to the conservation of biodiversity. It can also be seen as a way to minimize the harmful effects of human activities by managing the evolutionary process and maintaining the adaptive potential of natural populations. In the past twenty years the field of molecular biology has advanced with leaps and bounds, providing the necessary tools for the use of genetics in conservation. Arabidopsis thaliana is a model organism that can help us understand how future plant populations will respond to environmental changes. The three studies presented here use A. thaliana as a model system to gain a more complete understanding of how early flowering can affect development; to gain insight into the traits that may indicate tolerance to water stress; and finally, to shed light on how hybridization and previous selection can affect a populations’ adaptive potential. I found that early flowering does impact plant development. Plants that flowered earlier had a slower rate of leaf initiation, less leaves and smaller rosettes. I found that although the majority of plants produced less fruits in a water-limited environment, there were some individuals that produced a greater number of fruits under water stress. There is a strong selection to decrease the number of days to first flower in water-limited environments. I found that plants that had previously undergone a strong selection for early flowering were initially more tolerant to drought than unselected plants but the advantage was lost after three generations of a selection for drought tolerance. There was heterogeneity in the response to the selection amongst the hybrid populations. The information we gain by using A. thaliana can be extrapolated and applied to species that are threatened in order to better understand their evolutionary processes.
|Date of Award
|1 Sept 2014
|Paula Kover (Supervisor) & Laurence Hurst (Supervisor)