A tree well travelled: global genetic structure of the invasive tree Acacia saligna

Genevieve D. Thompson, Dirk U. Bellstedt, David M. Richardson, John R. U. Wilson, Johannes J. Le Roux*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: Invasiveness of an introduced species in one region is often used to predict risk and inform management of the same species elsewhere. This assumes that entities in both regions are equivalent in their ecology and response to management. However, intraspecific genetic variation can result in differences in performance between regions. We conducted population genetic and phylogeographic analyses of the widely introduced and intraspecifically diverse Australian tree species Acacia saligna, in order to improve our understanding of its worldwide invasion history. Location: The native range of A. saligna in Western Australia and introduced ranges in eastern Australia, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and the USA. Methods: We analysed microsatellite genotype data obtained from 447 individuals of A. saligna (including reference populations of known subspecies lineages) using Bayesian assignment analysis. We also reconstructed parsimony networks and a phylogeny using data from the nuclear external transcribed spacer (ETS) gene region for a subset of 120 individuals. Results: There was no consistent genetic pattern in introduced populations in different parts of the world. All three subspecies lineages of A. saligna have been moved around the world, showing high levels of admixture in some introduced populations. A previously identified novel and cultivated South African lineage was also identified in Portugal and Italy. Main conclusions: With different subspecies lineages present in different regions globally, it is unclear exactly how effective management approaches of invasions in one region will be in other regions. For example, the successful biological control agents against cultivated lineages of A. saligna in South Africa will probably be effective against similar genotypes in Portugal but not against dissimilar lineages present elsewhere. Further work is needed to conclusively link the relative extent of invasions to genetic differences, and to determine whether genetic novelty can explain the widespread invasions of A. saligna observed in South Africa and Portugal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-314
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Corrigendum can be found in Journal of Biogeography, 42(5), p. 995. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12502


  • Acacia saligna
  • biological control
  • biological invasions
  • genetic diversity
  • invasive species
  • novel genotypes
  • subspecies lineage
  • tree invasions


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