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Open Access Research article

Entangled effects of allelic and clonal (genotypic) richness in the resistance and resilience of experimental populations of the seagrass Zostera noltii to diatom invasion

Sónia I Massa1, Cristina M Paulino1, Ester A Serrão1, Carlos M Duarte23 and Sophie Arnaud-Haond4*

Author Affiliations

1 CCMAR-CIMAR, Universidade do Algarve, Gambelas, Faro 8005-139, Portugal

2 Department of Global Change Research, IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats, C/Miguel Marqués 21, Esporles, Mallorca 07190, Spain

3 The UWA Oceans Institute and School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA, 6009, Australia

4 IFREMER, Bd Jean Monnet, BP 171, Sète 34203, France

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BMC Ecology 2013, 13:39  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-13-39

Published: 23 October 2013

Abstract

Background

The relationship between species diversity and components of ecosystem stability has been extensively studied, whilst the influence of the genetic component of biodiversity remains poorly understood. Here we manipulated both genotypic and allelic richness of the seagrass Zostera noltii, in order to explore their respective influences on the resistance of the experimental population to stress. Thus far intra-specific diversity was seldom taken into account in management plans, and restoration actions showed very low success. Information is therefore needed to understand the factors affecting resistance and resilience of populations.

Results

Our results show a positive influence of both allelic and genotypic richness on the resistance of meadows to environmental perturbations. They also show that at the low genotypic (i.e. clonal) richness levels used in prior experimental approaches, the effects of genotypic and allelic richness could not be disentangled and allelic richness was a likely hidden treatment explaining at least part of the effects hitherto attributed to genotypic richness.

Conclusions

Altogether, these results emphasize the need to acknowledge and take into account the interdependency of both genotypic and allelic richness in experimental designs attempting to estimate their importance alone or in combination. A positive influence of allelic richness on resistance to perturbations, and of allelic richness combined with genotypic richness on the recovery (resilience) of the experimental populations is supported by differential mortality. These results, on the key species structuring of one of the most threatened coastal ecosystem worldwide, seagrass meadows, support the need to better take into account the distinct compartments of clonal and genetic diversity in management strategies, and in possible restoration plans in the future.

Keywords:
Allelic richness; Genotypic richness; Resistance; Resilience; Zostera noltii; Biotic stress; Seagrass