The effect of genetic diversity on ecosystem functioning in vegetated coastal ecosystems

Tiina Salo*, Camilla Gustafsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In species-poor communities, genetic diversity potentially plays an important role for ecosystem functioning, though this is still largely unexplored in marine and estuarine ecosystems. We studied how genetic diversity (sensu genotypic diversity and/or allelic richness) affects ecosystem functioning in marine habitat-forming plant communities. First, we conducted a 15-month field experiment in the highly seasonal Baltic Sea and established mono- and polycultures of different genotypes and genotype combinations of Zostera marina. Second, we reviewed existing literature and performed a meta-analysis of 12 studies including this study. We found no evidence of positive genetic diversity effects on shoot production in the field experiment, but diversity enhanced community stability over time. The literature review revealed that a majority of the included studies observed positive effects of genetic diversity on ecosystem functions such as primary production and nutrient uptake. The results from the meta-analysis support the hypothesis that genetic diversity effects on productivity are stronger during or after periods of stress. These diversity effects were also more positive in the field compared to mesocosm studies. Our results indicate that genetic diversity has positive effects on ecosystem functioning, particularly during increased environmental stress. Thus, local genetic diversity should be preserved especially in speciespoor ecosystems, where it potentially provides insurance against environmental change. In species-poor communities, genetic diversity potentially plays an important role for ecosystem functioning, though this is still largely unexplored in marine and estuarine ecosystems. We studied how genetic diversity (sensu genotypic diversity and/or allelic richness) affects ecosystem functioning in marine habitat-forming plant communities. First, we conducted a 15-month field experiment in the highly seasonal Baltic Sea and established mono- and polycultures of different genotypes and genotype combinations of Zostera marina. Second, we reviewed existing literature and performed a meta-analysis of 12 studies including this study. We found no evidence of positive genetic diversity effects on shoot production in the field experiment, but diversity enhanced community stability over time. The literature review revealed that a majority of the included studies observed positive effects of genetic diversity on ecosystem functions such as primary production and nutrient uptake. The results from the meta-analysis support the hypothesis that genetic diversity effects on productivity are stronger during or after periods of stress. These diversity effects were also more positive in the field compared to mesocosm studies. Our results indicate that genetic diversity has positive effects on ecosystem functioning, particularly during increased environmental stress. Thus, local genetic diversity should be preserved especially in speciespoor ecosystems, where it potentially provides insurance against environmental change.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1429–1444
JournalEcosystems
Volume19
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • environmental stress

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