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      Relationships between adaptive and neutral genetic diversity and ecological structure and functioning: a meta-analysis

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          Abstract

          1. Understanding the effects of intraspecific genetic diversity on the structure and functioning of ecological communities is a fundamentally important part of evolutionary ecology and may also have conservation relevance in identifying the situations in which genetic diversity coincides with species-level diversity.

          2. Early studies within this field documented positive relationships between genetic diversity and ecological structure, but recent studies have challenged these findings. Conceptual synthesis has been hampered because studies have used different measures of intraspecific variation (phenotypically adaptive vs. neutral) and have considered different measures of ecological structure in different ecological and spatial contexts. The aim of this study is to strengthen conceptual understanding by providing an empirical synthesis quantifying the relationship between genetic diversity and ecological structure.

          3. Here, I present a meta-analysis of the relationship between genetic diversity within plant populations and the structure and functioning of associated ecological communities (including 423 effect sizes from 70 studies). I used Bayesian meta-analyses to examine (i) the strength and direction of this relationship, (ii) the extent to which phenotypically adaptive and neutral (molecular) measures of diversity differ in their association with ecological structure and (iii) variation in outcomes among different measures of ecological structure and in different ecological contexts.

          4. Effect sizes measuring the relationship between adaptive diversity (genotypic richness) and both community- and ecosystem-level ecological responses were small, but significantly positive. These associations were supported by genetic effects on species richness and productivity, respectively.

          5. There was no overall association between neutral genetic diversity and measures of ecological structure, but a positive correlation was observed under a limited set of demographic conditions. These results suggest that adaptive and neutral genetic diversity should not be treated as ecologically equivalent measures of intraspecific variation.

          6. Synthesis. This study advances the debate over whether relationships between genetic diversity and ecological structure are either simply positive or negative, by showing how the strength and direction of these relationships changes with different measures of diversity and in different ecological contexts. The results provide a solid foundation for assessing when and where an expanded synthesis between ecology and genetics will be most fruitful.

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          Competition and Biodiversity in Spatially Structured Habitats

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            Competitive Exclusion in Herbaceous Vegetation

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              Ecological consequences of genetic diversity.

              Understanding the ecological consequences of biodiversity is a fundamental challenge. Research on a key component of biodiversity, genetic diversity, has traditionally focused on its importance in evolutionary processes, but classical studies in evolutionary biology, agronomy and conservation biology indicate that genetic diversity might also have important ecological effects. Our review of the literature reveals significant effects of genetic diversity on ecological processes such as primary productivity, population recovery from disturbance, interspecific competition, community structure, and fluxes of energy and nutrients. Thus, genetic diversity can have important ecological consequences at the population, community and ecosystem levels, and in some cases the effects are comparable in magnitude to the effects of species diversity. However, it is not clear how widely these results apply in nature, as studies to date have been biased towards manipulations of plant clonal diversity, and little is known about the relative importance of genetic diversity vs. other factors that influence ecological processes of interest. Future studies should focus not only on documenting the presence of genetic diversity effects but also on identifying underlying mechanisms and predicting when such effects are likely to occur in nature.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Ecol
                J. Ecol
                jec
                The Journal of Ecology
                BlackWell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
                0022-0477
                1365-2745
                July 2014
                23 June 2014
                : 102
                : 4
                : 857-872
                Affiliations
                Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool Liverpool, L69 7ZB, UK
                Author notes
                *Correspondence author. E-mail: r.whitlock@ 123456liverpool.ac.uk
                Article
                10.1111/1365-2745.12240
                4142011
                25210204
                f99a6aed-4874-4c35-b07c-1257e80a7a8a
                © 2014 The Authors. Journal of Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 22 October 2013
                : 20 February 2014
                Categories
                Special Feature: Standard Paper Meta-Analysis in Plant Ecology

                Ecology
                bayesian mixed-effects meta-analysis,community genetics,ecogenomics,ecological genetics,ecosystem function,genotypic diversity,productivity,species diversity,species richness

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