, Volume 14, Issue 13, pp 3105-3125

Distribution and Conservation of Genetic Diversity Among UK Calcareous Grassland Regions: A Case Study Using Insects

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Abstract

Conservation strategies for whole communities at the landscape scale have rarely been able to take into account genetic diversity because of the number of species involved. However, if species can be grouped together by geographic distribution of genetic diversity and patterns of relatedness, then landscape and genetic conservation might be more effectively combined to cope with problems of fragmentation. We report on a study that measures how genetic diversity is distributed at national and regional scales in four unrelated species of calcareous grassland insects. Samples were obtained from sites within six UK calcareous grassland regions. Genetic diversity was measured using mtDNA sequencing (four species) and allozyme analysis (two of the four species). A striking difference in mtDNA diversity was found between the chrysomelid beetle Aphthona herbigrada (23 haplotypes; mean per region 5.5) and the cicadellid bug Batracomorphus irroratus (27 haplotypes; mean per region 6.2), with high haplotype richness, and the brown argus butterfly Aricia agestis (4 haplotypes; mean per region 1.7) and the cistus forester moth Adscita geryon (5 haplotypes; mean per region 2.4) with low. At the UK scale, patterns of diversity were species specific with no general conservation strategy emerging for the community. However, there was little differentiation among regions and any splitting into more than one management unit was not clearly justified, questioning whether distribution of genetic diversity should be a concern at this spatial scale.