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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • coevolution;
  • community genetics;
  • diversity-ecosystem function;
  • genetic variation;
  • herbivory;
  • insect ecology;
  • Oenothera biennis;
  • plant–insect interactions;
  • tritrophic interactions

Abstract

Recent research suggests that genetic diversity in plant populations can shape the diversity and abundance of consumer communities. We tested this hypothesis in a field experiment by manipulating patches of Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) to contain one, four or eight plant genotypes. We then surveyed 92 species of naturally colonizing arthropods. Genetically diverse plant patches had 18% more arthropod species, and a greater abundance of omnivorous and predacious arthropods, but not herbivores, compared with monocultures. The effects of genotypic diversity on arthropod communities were due to a combination of interactive and additive effects among genotypes within genetically diverse patches. Greater genetic diversity also led to a selective feedback, as mean genotype fitness was 27% higher in diverse patches than in monocultures. A comparison between our results and the literature reveals that genetic diversity and species diversity can have similar qualitative and quantitative effects on arthropod communities. Our findings also illustrate the benefit of preserving genetic variation to conserve species diversity and interactions within multitrophic communities.