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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(1)

The polyploid nature of Cenchrus ciliaris L. (Poaceae) has been overlooked: new insights for the conservation and invasion biology of this species – a review

Amina Kharrat-Souissi A E , Sonja Siljak-Yakovlev B , Spencer C. Brown C , Alex Baumel D , Franck Torre D and Mohamed Chaieb A

A Université de Sfax, Faculté des Sciences, Unité de recherche, Biodiversité et Ecosystèmes en Milieu Aride, UR11ES71, Sfax, Tunisia.
B Université Paris-Sud, UMR 8079 CNRS-AgroParisTech-UPS, Laboratoire Ecologie, Systématique et Evolution, Université Paris-Sud, Bâtiment 360, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France.
C Compartimentation Cellulaire, Institut des Sciences du Végétal, CNRS UPR2355 and Imagif, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France.
D Aix-Marseille Université, Institut Méditerranéen de la Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale, IMBE, UMR CNRS 7263-IRD 237, Campus de l’Etoile, Saint Jérôme, case 421, 13397 Marseille Cedex 20, France.
E Corresponding author. Email: kharratsouissi@yahoo.fr

The Rangeland Journal 36(1) 11-23 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13043
Submitted: 12 May 2013  Accepted: 14 November 2013   Published: 13 January 2014


 
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Abstract

Climate change, associated with increased aridity, and high grazing pressure by livestock results in the scarcity and loss of perennial Poaceae in arid ecosystems. The species threatened by this include Cenchrus ciliaris L., a native perennial grass of the tropical and sub-tropical arid rangelands of Africa and Western Asia and now introduced in Central and South America, and Australia. This species reproduces predominantly through aposporous apomixis although sexual individuals have been occasionally identified. Cenchrus ciliaris is characterised by a significant, heritable, phenotypic polymorphism and three ploidy levels including tetraploids (2n = 4x = 36), pentaploids (2n = 5x = 45) and hexaploids (2n = 6x = 54). Under water-deficit conditions, C. ciliaris shows plasticity in growth characteristics and aboveground biomass. This phenotypic plasticity has led to the identification of genotypic-associated responses conferring more productivity. This underlines the importance of conserving the genetic diversity of C. ciliaris in order to ensure the persistence of the vegetation cover in the arid ecosystems in which it occurs. Observations from cytogenetic and molecular data converge to underline the possibility of sexual reproduction, recombination and gene flow within and between populations of C. ciliaris. Genetic mechanisms, such as polyploidy, hybridisation between ploidy levels and apomixes, are generating and then maintaining the diversity of C. ciliaris. This review emphasises the role of polyploidy in the evolutionary development of C. ciliaris and how it may be a crucial factor for its conservation in some countries and its weedy nature in others.

Additional keywords: buffelgrass, facultative apomixis, genetic diversity, phenotypic variation, water stress.


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