Genotypic Variation in a Foundation Tree (Populus tremula L.) Explains Community Structure of Associated Epiphytes
Community genetics hypothesizes that within a foundation species, the genotype of an individual significantly influences the assemblage of dependent organisms. To assess whether these intra-specific genetic effects are ecologically important, it is required to compare their impact on dependent organisms with that attributable to environmental variation experienced over relevant spatial scales. We assessed bark epiphytes on 27 aspen (Populus tremula L.) genotypes grown in a randomized experimental array at two contrasting sites spanning the environmental conditions from which the aspen genotypes were collected. We found that variation in aspen genotype significantly influenced bark epiphyte community composition, and to the same degree as environmental variation between the test sites. We conclude that maintaining genotypic diversity of foundation species may be crucial for conservation of associated biodiversity.