Diversity Needed Within and Among Species

Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1465m
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5844.1465m

Two key elements of biodiversity are the genetic diversity within species and the diversity of species in ecological communities and ecosystems. These elements are usually studied separately, with little attention to possible interactions between the two levels of diversity. Lankau and Strauss (p. 1561) provide empirical evidence for feedback loops that allow the maintenance of diversity at both levels. Genetic variation in an allelochemical trait of Brassica nigra is necessary for the coexistence of this species and other competitor species. At the same time, genetic variation in B. nigra was only maintained when multiple competitor species were present in the community. Some B. nigra genotypes were strong competitors against other species, but poor competitors against their own species. An important message of these results is that the conservation of species diversity in natural habitats might also require conservation of the mechanisms that maintain genetic diversity within species.

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