Seed morphometrics as a tool to site-specific seed sourcing for population reinforcement

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Arthur Lamoliere, Marco Iannaccone, Sandro Lanfranco , Joseph Buhagiar

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Seed-based ecological restoration requires a careful selection of the source genetic material when aiming at the conservation of an evolutionarily significant unit or a strict endemic species. The Mediterranean basin is a biodiversity hotspot, characterised by high endemism shaped by the history of the climatic events. Plant population restoration requires specific considerations when it comes to seed sourcing. Morphological description of a discriminant feature is the most commonly used taxonomic criteria, however, multivariate morphometrics detect intraspecific morphological variations. Phenotype characterisation provides an accessible argument in seed sourcing prior to site restoration. Mericarps of the strict endemic Ferula melitensis (Brullo et al., 2018) were collected from three different sites in the Maltese Islands and subjected to multivariate morphometrics based on ImageJ analysis. The shape of the mericarps has an important taxonomic role for this genus, and elongation variability in the characteristic oblong shape of the mericarp is found to be the main discriminant feature between populations (Figure 1), highlighting the morphological variability of this species at small geographical scale. These results complete the recent morphological and genetic analysis of Ferula melitensis, which have established it as a distinct species from the more widespread Ferula communis. Consideration of the phenotype of the target species is crucial for population reinforcement, and the implementation of this standardised methodology using open-access software (ImageJ, Particles8) ensures both replicability and application to a wide range of species. The results provide a crucial tool for the improvement of sourcing site-specific seed material for native population reinforcement.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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