Mutual Feedbacks Maintain Both Genetic and Species Diversity in a Plant Community

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Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1561-1563
DOI: 10.1126/science.1147455

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The forces that maintain genetic diversity among individuals and diversity among species are usually studied separately. Nevertheless, diversity at one of these levels may depend on the diversity at the other. We have combined observations of natural populations, quantitative genetics, and field experiments to show that genetic variation in the concentration of an allelopathic secondary compound in Brassica nigra is necessary for the coexistence of B. nigra and its competitor species. In addition, the diversity of competing species was required for the maintenance of genetic variation in the trait within B. nigra. Thus, conservation of species diversity may also necessitate maintenance of the processes that sustain the genetic diversity of each individual species.

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