Genotypic variation in foundation species generates network structure that may drive community dynamics and evolution

Matthew K. Lau, Arthur R. Keith, Stuart R. Borrett, Stephen M Shuster, Thomas G Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


Although genetics in a single species is known to impact whole communities, little is known about how genetic variation influences species interaction networks in complex ecosystems. Here, we examine the interactions in a community of arthropod species on replicated genotypes (clones) of a foundation tree species, Populus angustifolia James (narrowleaf cottonwood), in a long-term, common garden experiment using a bipartite "genotype-species" network perspective. We combine this empirical work with a simulation experiment designed to further investigate how variation among individual tree genotypes can impact network structure. Three findings emerged: (1) the empirical "genotype-species network" exhibited significant network structure with modularity being greater than the highly conservative null model; (2) as would be expected given a modular network structure, the empirical network displayed significant positive arthropod co-occurrence patterns; and (3) furthermore, the simulations of "genotype-species" networks displayed variation in network structure, with modularity in particular clearly increasing, as genotypic variation increased. These results support the conclusion that genetic variation in a single species contributes to the structure of ecological interaction networks, which could influence ecological dynamics (e.g., assembly and stability) and evolution in a community context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)733-742
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Centralization
  • Co-occurrence
  • Common garden experiment
  • Foundation species
  • Genotype-species networks
  • Modularity
  • Nestedness
  • Network ecology
  • Species interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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