Toxic Soils & Special Plants: Serpentine Endemism in California
BIO Ms. Soto’s research focuses on population genetics, investigating how plant mating systems influence population dynamics and distributions, ultimately determining the genetic structure of populations. Her work at Purdue University aims to understand the negative impacts of inbreeding in self-pollinating wild petunias, and how outcrossing is maintained within the group.
SUMMARY California’s is home to both a majority of North America’s serpentine soil as well as a biodiversity hotspot that includes countless adaptive radiations. Serpentine rock is derived from volcanic rock that is created at the place where two of Earth’s tectonic plates collide, this rock is then eroded into serpentine soil. Serpentine soil is extremely high in heavy metals such as Nickel and Iron & low essential nutrients such as Calcium and Potassium. This makes serpentine soil inhospitable to plant species that have not specially evolved to tolerate these stressful conditions. However, serpentine tolerance has evolved independently multiple times in a number of plant genera. While most serpentine endemics are very poor competitors, they are able to thrive in these desolate pockets of toxic soil. These populations may have low genetic diversity due to their isolation, and current human activities may be reducing their genetic diversity even more, potentially putting them at increased risk of extinction. In this talk, Ms. Soto will present her work on the population genetics of three rare serpentine endemics; specifically a comparison between historic and contemporary genetic diversity.