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Multiple dimensions of intraspecific diversity affect biomass of eelgrass and its associated community

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Genetic diversity within key species can play an important role in the functioning of entire communities. However, the extent to which different dimensions of diversity (e.g., the number of genotypes vs. the extent of genetic differentiation among those genotypes) best predicts functioning is unknown and may yield clues into the different mechanisms underlying diversity effects. We explicitly test the relative influence of genotypic richness and genetic relatedness on eelgrass productivity, biomass, and the diversity of associated invertebrate grazers in a factorial field experiment using the seagrass species, Zostera marina (eelgrass). Genotypic richness had the strongest effect on eelgrass biomass accumulation, such that plots with more genotypes at the end of the experiment attained a higher biomass. Genotypic diversity (richness + evenness) was a stronger predictor of biomass than richness alone, and both genotype richness and diversity were positively correlated with trait diversity. The relatedness of genotypes in a plot reduced eelgrass biomass independently of richness. Plots containing eelgrass with greater trait diversity also had a higher abundance of invertebrate grazers, while the diversity and relatedness of eelgrass genotypes had little effect on invertebrate abundance or richness. Our work extends previous findings by explicitly relating genotypic diversity to trait diversity, thus mechanistically connecting genotypic diversity to plot-level yields. We also show that other dimensions of diversity, namely relatedness, influence eelgrass performance independent of trait differentiation. Ultimately, richness and relatedness captured fundamentally different components of intraspecific variation and should be treated as complementary rather than competing dimensions of biodiversity affecting ecosystem functioning.

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