Genetics-based interactions of foundation species affect community diversity, stability and network structure

Arthur R. Keith, Joseph K. Bailey, Matthew K. Lau, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We examined the hypothesis that genetics-based interactions between strongly interacting foundation species, the tree Populus angustifolia and the aphid Pemphigus betae, affect arthropod community diversity, stability and species interaction networks of which little is known. In a 2-year experimental manipulation of the tree and its aphid herbivore four major findings emerged: (i) the interactions of these two species determined the composition of an arthropod community of 139 species; (ii) both tree genotype and aphid presence significantly predicted community diversity; (iii) the presence of aphids on genetically susceptible trees increased the stability of arthropod communities across years; and (iv) the experimental removal of aphids affected community network structure (network degree, modularity and tree genotype contribution to modularity). These findings demonstrate that the interactions of foundation species are genetically based, which in turn significantly contributes to community diversity, stability and species interaction networks. These experiments provide an important step in understanding the evolution of Darwin’s ‘entangled bank’, a metaphor that characterizes the complexity and interconnectedness of communities in the wild.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20162703
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1854
StatePublished - May 17 2017


  • Community stability
  • Foundation species
  • Network structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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