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3 - A community and ecosystem genetics approach to conservation biology and management

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 July 2014

Thomas G. Whitham
Northern Arizona University
Catherine A. Gehring
Northern Arizona University
Luke M. Evans
Northern Arizona University
Carri J. LeRoy
The Evergreen State College
Randy K. Bangert
Idaho State University
Jennifer A. Schweitzer
University of Tennessee
Gerard J. Allan
Northern Arizona University
Robert C. Barbour
University of Tasmania
Dylan G. Fischer
The Evergreen State College
Bradley M. Potts
University of Tasmania
Joseph K. Bailey
Northern Arizona University
J. Andrew DeWoody
Purdue University, Indiana
John W. Bickham
Purdue University, Indiana
Charles H. Michler
Purdue University, Indiana
Krista M. Nichols
Purdue University, Indiana
Gene E. Rhodes
Purdue University, Indiana
Keith E. Woeste
Purdue University, Indiana
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The emerging field of community and ecosystem genetics has so far focused on how the genetic variation in one species can influence the composition of associated communities and ecosystem processes such as decomposition (see definitions in Table 3–1; reviews by Whitham et al. 2003, 2006; Johnson & Stinchcombe 2007; Hughes et al. 2008). A key component of this approach has been an emphasis on understanding how the genetics of foundation plant species influence a much larger community. It is reasoned that because foundation species structure their ecosystems by creating locally stable conditions and provide specific resources for diverse organisms (Dayton 1972; Ellison et al. 2005), the genetics of these species as “community drivers” are most important to understand and most likely to have cascading ecological and evolutionary effects throughout an ecosystem (Whitham et al. 2006). For example, when a foundation species’ genotype influences the relative fitness of other species, it constitutes an indirect genetic interaction (Shuster et al. 2006), and when these interactions change species composition and abundance among individual tree genotypes, they result in individual genotypes having distinct community and ecosystem phenotypes. Thus, in addition to an individual genotype having the “traditional” phenotype that population geneticists typically consider as the expression of a trait at the individual and population level, community geneticists must also consider higher-level phenotypes at the community and ecosystem level. The predictability of phenotypes at levels higher than the population can be quantified as community heritability (i.e., the tendency for related individuals to support similar communities of organisms and ecosystem processes; Whitham et al. 2003, 2006; Shuster et al. 2006).

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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