Genetic diversity increases population productivity in a sessile marine invertebrate

Authors: J David Aguirre and Dustin J Marshall

Published in: Ecology, volume 93, issue 5, doi: 10.1890/11-1448.1


Reductions in genetic diversity can have widespread ecological consequences: populations with higher genetic diversity are more stable, productive and resistant to disturbance or disease than populations with lower genetic diversity.

These ecological effects of genetic diversity differ from the more familiar evolutionary consequences of depleting genetic diversity, because ecological effects manifest within a single generation.

If common, genetic diversity effects have the potential to change the way we view and manage populations, but our understanding of these effects is far from complete, and the role of genetic diversity in sexually reproducing animals remains unclear.

Here, we examined the effects of genetic diversity in a sexually reproducing marine invertebrate in the field. We manipulated the genetic diversity of experimental populations and then measured individual survival, growth, and fecundity, as well as the size of offspring produced by individuals in high and low genetic diversity populations.

Overall, we found greater genetic diversity increased performance across all metrics, and that complementarity effects drove the increased productivity of our high-diversity populations.

Our results show that differences in genetic diversity among populations can have pervasive effects on population productivity within remarkably short periods of time.

Full paper

Aguirre JD, Marshall DJ (2012) Genetic diversity increases population productivity in a sessile marine invertebrate. Ecology 93: 1134–1142 PDFPDF 1.3 MB doi: 10.1890/11-1448.1