Multiple introductions and no loss of genetic diversity: invasion history of Japanese Rose, Rosa rugosa, in Europe

The shrub Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose), native to East Asia, is considered one of the most troublesome invasive plant species in natural or semi-natural habitats of northern Europe and has proven very difficult to control. We aimed at disentangling the speciesí invasion history in Europe, including determining the number of introductions and their geographic origin, and at investigating whether populations in the introduced and native ranges differ in genetic diversity, structure and degree of differentiation. We found that introduced (n = 16) and native (n = 16) populations had similar levels of genetic diversity at seven nuclear SSR (microsatellite) loci. European populations lack isolation by distance and are less genetically differentiated than are populations in East Asia. Multiple and at least three independent colonization events, one of which was particularly successful, gave rise to current R. rugosa populations in Europe. The geographic distribution patterns of these three genetic clusters could not be explained by natural dispersal alone, indicating that human mediated secondary dispersal is driving the expansion in Europe. One cluster representing three of the European populations was most likely derived from NW Japan, whereas the origin of the remaining thirteen populations could not clearly be resolved. The introduction and expansion in Europe occurred with no significant loss of genetic diversity. We conclude that high propagule pressure at the primary establishment phase is the most parsimonious explanation for this pattern. A potential for long distance seed dispersal, coastal habitat connectivity and an outcrossing breeding system are factors likely to have enabled populations of R. rugosa to avoid detrimental effects of genetic bottlenecks and will further increase the speciesí range size and abundance in Europe. We recommend that human-mediated dispersal should be prevented in order to halt the continued expansion.