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Ecology. 2010 Sep;91(9):2660-72.

Spatial location dominates over host plant genotype in structuring an herbivore community.

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  • 1Metapopulation Research Group, Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, Helsinki FI-00014, Finland.


Recent work has shown a potential role for both host plant genotype and spatial context in structuring insect communities. In this study, we use three separate data sets on herbivorous insects on oak (Quercus robur) to estimate the relative effects of host plant genotype (G), location (E), and the G x E interaction on herbivore community structure: a common garden experiment replicated at the landscape scale (approximately 5 km2); two common gardens separated at the regional scale (approximately 10 000 km2); and survey data on wild trees in various spatial settings. Our experiments and survey reveal that, at the landscape scale, the insect community is strongly affected by the spatial setting, with 32% of the variation in species richness explained by spatial connectivity. In contrast, G and G x E play minor roles in structuring the insect community. Results remained similar when extending the spatial scale of the study from the more local (landscape) level to the regional level. We conclude that in our study system, spatial processes play a major role in structuring these insect communities at both the landscape and regional scales, whereas host plant genotype seems of secondary importance.

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