Insights into the Vitis complex in the Danube floodplain (Austria)
ArnoldC. Bachman O. Schnitzler A.
Ecology and evolution
European grapevine populations quickly disappeared from most of their range massively killed by the spread of North American grapevine pests and diseases. Nowadays taxonomic pollution represents a new threat. A large Vitis complex involves escaped cultivars rootstocks and wild grapevines. The study aimed to provide insight into the Vitis complex in the Danube region through field and genetic analyses. Among the five other major rivers in Europe which still host wild grapevine populations the Danube floodplain is the only one benefiting from an extensive protected forest area (93 km²) and an relatively active dynamic flood pulse. The Donau-Auen National Park also regroups the largest wild grapevine population in Europe. Ninety-two percent of the individuals collected in the park were true wild grapevines and 8% were hybrids and introgressed individuals of rootstocks wild grapevines and cultivars. These three groups are interfertile acting either as pollen donor or receiver. Hybrids were established within and outside the dykes mostly in anthropized forest edges. The best-developed individuals imply rootstock genes. They establish in the most erosive parts of the floodplain. 42% of the true wild grapevines lived at the edges of forest/meadow 33.3% at the edges forest/channels and 23.9% in forest gaps. DBH (Diameter Breast Height) varied significantly with the occurrence of flooding. Clones were found in both true wild and hybrids/introgressed grapevines. The process of cloning seemed to be prevented in places where flooding dynamics is reduced. The current global distribution of true wild grapevines shows a strong tendency toward clustering in sites where forestry practices were the most extensive. However the reduced flooding activity is a danger for long-term\r\nsustainability of the natural wild grapevine population.