, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 337-345
Date: 01 Dec 2009

Species versus genotypic diversity of a nitrogen-fixing plant functional group in a metacommunity

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Exploring species and genetic diversity interactions provides new opportunities for furthering our understanding of the ecology and evolution of population and community dynamics, and for predicting responses of ecosystems to environmental change. Theory predicts that species diversity within communities and genetic diversity within populations will covary positively, because either species and genetic diversity interact synergistically or they respond in parallel fashion to common habitat conditions. We tested the hypothesis of positive covariation between species and genotypic diversity in a metacommunity of the species-rich southwest Australian flora. We hypothesised that the connection between genotypic diversity and species diversity is strong within functional groups, but weak or non-existent if the species considered extend beyond the functional group. We show that allelic richness of Daviesia triflora, an ant-dispersed pea, covaries positively with the species richness of six co-occurring nitrogen-fixing legume species. No pattern can be detected between allelic richness of D. triflora and species richness of ant-dispersed species when four non-legumes are added. We also show that genetic diversity of D. triflora is not governed by the same environmental factors that determine the presence of a group of large-shrub/small-tree species in the same metacommunity. This study shows that species and genetic diversity covariation are more likely to be confined to within, rather than between, plant functional groups.