Presentation Title Date xx, 2004 - University of Connecticut

Integration of GIS and Bentgrass Ecology for Environmental Risk Assessment.
Collin Ahrens
Department of of Plant Science
[email protected]
All new technologies carry both benefits and risks. For example, medical
research tests the effects of new drugs before they are approved for sale.
Likewise, genetically-modified plants must be assessed before they are
released into the environment. Our research examines plant gene flow and
the potential impacts from environmental release of genetically-modified
plants. Plant gene flow is a natural process that occurs when pollen from one
plant lands on the flower of another plant and produces a hybrid offspring.
Gene flow can produce hybrid offspring with new traits that could change the
ability of the plant to survive and spread. If hybrid offspring have some
advantage in the environment, they could become invasive and/or affect other
components of our ecosystems.
In the future, the federal government may approve herbicide-resistant (HR)
creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera), a common, non-native grass used
on golf courses. We aim to use plant ecology coupled with spatial information
to gain an understanding of the possible risks associated with escape of the
HR trait. Using spatial information and ecology, a habitat suitability model
(HSM) can be made to help predict where bentgrasses exist and management
problems may occur.
Figure 1. A two-page sample from the newly developed bentgrass ID book
(2007). These pages provide information on creeping bentgrass.


A major goal of this research is to create a HSM which requires that everyone
be able to accurately identify bentgrass species in different habitats. The
summer of 2007 was used to create a bentgrass ID guide (Figures 1-3). This
booklet features information on all 10 bentgrasses in Connecticut through
photographs, maps, morphological characteristics, two taxonomic keys, and
a novel identification feature. Figure 1 shows 2 pages taken from the ID
guide for the non-native species creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera).
Figure 2 describes the native upland bentgrass (Agrostis perennans) that
may be able to inherit the transgenic HR trait through gene flow.
These two species and redtop (Agrostis gigantea) are difficult to distinguish
in the field. The width of grass panicles were measured at each node (the
point at which flowering branches grow) for the three species. The diagrams
created from these measurements (Figure 3) show that the species have
different panicle shapes and sizes. Creeping bentgrass has a conical shape,
redtop has a pyrimidal shape, and upland bentgrass is intermediate in form.
When the measurements are compared statistically, there are significant
differences in panicle width (Figure 3, in red blocks).
Figure 2. Pages from the new bentgrass ID book (2007) showing information
about upland bentgrass, species that is native to Connecticut.

The escape of transgenic plants into the environment is a concern that must
be addressed through science and policy. With the development and possible
future use of HR creeping bentgrass in Connecticut, there is a great
opportunity to study the movement and effects of transgenes. This ID guide is
the first step that will bridge the gap between GIS specialists and plant
ecologists for the HSM project that will continue through the next few years.
The ID guide will be used in creating a HSM that will predict where bentgrasses
are likely to grow. If successful, the HSM could help with future management,
stewardship, and mitigation practices.
The summer of 2007 was important on an individual level to hone my own
skills in plant identification and GIS techniques, find and map research plots
that will be used in the coming years, and lay other groundwork for my
multidisciplinary research projects.

Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering (CESE) of the University of
Funding from the Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station.
Figure 3. A novel identification tool for three bentgrass species. Each
diagram represents the overall shape and mean value for branch
length on the flower panicles.

Creeping bentgrass


Upland bentgrass

In collaboration with Dr.Carol Auer (Dept. Plant Science) and Dr. Tom Meyer (Natural Resource
Management and Eng.)

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