Genetically Diverse Trees Support A Wider Range Of Insects

A research group in Japan has identified correlations between the genetic diversity of a tree species and its constituent insect communities.

AsianScientist (Mar. 20, 2018) – Scientists in Japan have used genomic variation in a tree species to predict the diversity of insect communities in the Uryu Experimental Forest. They published their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Generally, spatial and temporal factors affect how communities of organisms are shaped in an ecosystem. Understanding the structure of associated communities is essential for ensuring biodiversity.

However, predicting a community structure, or the combination of organisms forming the community, in the natural ecosystem has been difficult because it involves complex factors such as ever-changing meteorological conditions and species interactions.

To address this problem, a research team led by Associate Professor Shunsuke Utsumi and a doctoral student, Mr Shinnosuke Kagiya of Hokkaido University, Japan studied genomic variation in a foundation tree species to predict the diversity of an insect community.

The researchers examined insects on 85 mature alders (Alnus hirsute) at 12 locations along rivers inside Hokkaido University’s 25,000-hectare Uryu Experimental Forest, a continuous mixed forest. They investigated genetic divergence among the alders based on 1,077 single nucleotide polymorphisms obtained from the alders’ genome, finding variations in their DNA sequencing. They collected 115 varieties of insects from the alders during the two-year study.

Furthermore, the researchers investigated trees surrounding the alders to take interspecies associations into consideration. They also gathered data about the spatial distance between the trees, the river path distances, the insect-collection timings and the surrounding vegetation. The data were analyzed using various statistical models to explain the structure of an insect community.

The team uncovered significant correlations between the genetic diversity of alders and that of the insect communities living on them. In essence, when the alders were genetically similar, the year-to-year temporal changes in their insect communities were also more similar. This correlation is maintained even after spatial distances between trees and differences in environmental conditions are factored in.

“Since arthropod communities cause various repercussions on the networks of species interactions in the ecosystem, the genome of an individual tree, which reflects its evolution, is a key to understanding the structure of organism communities on a larger scale. Also, our findings could provide clues for more effective ecosystem preservation plans,” said Utsumi.

The article can be found at: Kagiya et al. (2018) Does Genomic Variation in a Foundation Species Predict Arthropod Community Structure in a Riparian Forest?


Source: Hokkaido University; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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