Living in Heterogeneous Woodlands - Are Habitat Continuity or Quality Drivers of Genetic Variability in a Flightless Ground Beetle?

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  • Tamar Marcus
  • Steffen Boch
  • Walter Durka
  • Markus Fischer
  • Martin M. Gossner
  • Jörg Müller
  • Ingo Schöning
  • Wolfgang W. Weisser
  • Claudia Drees
  • Thorsten Assmann

Although genetic diversity is one of the key components of biodiversity, its drivers are still not fully understood. While it is known that genetic diversity is affected both by environmental parameters as well as habitat history, these factors are not often tested together. Therefore, we analyzed 14 microsatellite loci in Abax parallelepipedus, a flightless, forest dwelling ground beetle, from 88 plots in two study regions in Germany. We modeled the effects of historical and environmental variables on allelic richness, and found for one of the regions, the Schorfheide-Chorin, a significant effect of the depth of the litter layer, which is a main component of habitat quality, and of the sampling effort, which serves as an inverse proxy for local population size. For the other region, the Schwäbische Alb, none of the potential drivers showed a significant effect on allelic richness. We conclude that the genetic diversity in our study species is being driven by current local population sizes via environmental variables and not by historical processes in the studied regions. This is also supported by lack of genetic differentiation between local populations sampled from ancient and from recent woodlands.We suggest that the potential effects of former fragmentation and recolonization processes have been mitigated by the large and stable local populations of Abax parallelepipedus in combination with the proximity of the ancient and recent woodlands in the studied landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0144217
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2015