From genes to ecosystems: A synthesis of the effects of plant genetic factors across levels of organization

Joseph K. Bailey, Jennifer A. Schweitzer, Francisco Úbeda, Julia Koricheva, Carri J. LeRoy, Michael D. Madritch, Brian J. Rehill, Randy K. Bangert, Dylan G. Fischer, Gerard J. Allan, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

214 Scopus citations


Using two genetic approaches and seven different plant systems, we present findings from a meta-analysis examining the strength of the effects of plant genetic introgression and genotypic diversity across individual, community and ecosystem levels with the goal of synthesizing the patterns to date. We found that (i) the strength of plant genetic effects can be quite high; however, the overall strength of genetic effects on most response variables declined as the levels of organization increased. (ii) Plant genetic effects varied such that introgression had a greater impact on individual phenotypes than extended effects on arthropods or microbes/fungi. By contrast, the greatest effects of genotypic diversity were on arthropods. (iii) Plant genetic effects were greater on above-ground versus below-ground processes, but there was no difference between terrestrial and aquatic environments. (iv) The strength of the effects of intraspecific genotypic diversity tended to be weaker than interspecific genetic introgression. (v) Although genetic effects generally decline across levels of organization, in some cases they do not, suggesting that specific organisms and/or processes may respond more than others to underlying genetic variation. Because patterns in the overall impacts of introgression and genotypic diversity were generally consistent across diverse study systems and consistent with theoretical expectations, these results provide generality for understanding the extended consequences of plant genetic variation across levels of organization, with evolutionary implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1607-1616
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1523
StatePublished - Jun 12 2009


  • Community and ecosystem genetics
  • Genes to ecosystems
  • Genotypic diversity
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Introgression
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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