Institute of Evolution and Ecology (EvE)

Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (GGMFS)


Rob Colautti, Madalin Parepa, Oliver Bossdorf, and the GGMFS consortium


N.N., University of Tübingen, NSF Global Invasions RCN


2009 - present

In a nutshell

Biological invasions are global phenomena that ultimately can be better understood through global collaborative studies. The Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (GGMFS) is a unique project in invasion biology where we, together with 150 colleagues, conducted the largest field survey to date of an invasive plant. The demographic and environmental data as well as seeds from the GGMFS will be essential for establishing garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) as a model system for understanding the eco-evolutionary dynamics of invasive plants at a global scale.

Project description

Invasive species proliferate in novel environments that may be quite different from the native range. However, it is not clear how they are able to do this because it is difficult to test ecological and evolutionary hypotheses at large spatial scales (e.g. between continents). The global garlic mustard field survey (GGMFS) is a multi-national initiative to collect comprehensive field data and genetic resources to understand the ecological and genetic basis of range limits and plant performance in the context of global change. To do this, we focus on a single widespread invasive species – garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). Our large research network (>150 scientists) has already collected seeds from >5,000 plants and performance data from ~400 locations across North America and Europe.

We are now in the process of analyzing the field data for publication, and several additional projects have started within the last year:

Field data

Preliminary analyses show that, after accounting for climate and other environmental influences, there are many systematic differences between native and invasive populations. On average, populations in the introduced range (North America) are larger, denser and less infected by pathogenic leaf fungi, consistent with the enemy release hypothesis. Additionally, there is considerable among-population variation in plant and population performance within both ranges. We are currently analyzing how much variation in performance is among- vs. within- ranges, and the relative effects on performance of biotic effects (herbivory and pathogens), abiotic factors (climate, shade), human disturbance (control efforts, roads) and region of origin (native vs. introduced).

Common garden phenotyping and seed propagation

In spring 2014 we began cultivating plants from 350 sampled populations in a common garden at the University of Tübingen, with several maternal families per population. Of these, ~1,000 will be used to propagate inbred lines for future research. Together with the data from the field survey, these seeds will be made available to other GGMFS participants, and to the broader scientific community. Our hope is that this will promote an integrative approach to understanding the ecological and genetic factors responsible for the garlic mustard invasion in North America.

Genetic resources

Alliaria petiolata is in the Brassicaceae - a genetically well-studied family of angiosperm that includes the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and many economically important crops. Together with Loren Rieseberg (University of British Columbia, Vancouver) we are assembling a draft genome. We do not expect to have a fully sequenced and annotated genome for several years, but the contigs produced in the early assembly stages will be useful for identifying candidate genes, and linkage analysis of future SNP data.


Colautti RI, Franks SJ, Hufbauer RA, Kotanen PM, Torchin M, Byers JE, Pyšek P, Bossdorf O (2014) The Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (GGMFS): challenges and opportunities of a unique, large-scale collaboration for invasion biology. NeoBiota. 21: 29-47.