Microevolutionary Processes in a Foundation Tree Inform Macrosystem Patterns of Community Biodiversity and Structure

Helen M. Bothwell, Arthur R. Keith, Hillary F. Cooper, Julia B. Hull, Lela V. Andrews, Christian Wehenkel, Kevin R. Hultine, Catherine A. Gehring, Samuel A. Cushman, Thomas G. Whitham, Gerard J. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite an increased focus on multiscale relationships and interdisciplinary integration, few macroecological studies consider the contribution of genetic-based processes to landscape-scale patterns. We test the hypothesis that tree genetics, climate, and geography jointly drive continental-scale patterns of community structure, using genome-wide SNP data from a broadly distributed foundation tree species (Populus fremontii S. Watson) and two dependent communities (leaf-modifying arthropods and fungal endophytes) spanning southwestern North America. Four key findings emerged: (1) Tree genetic structure was a significant predictor for both communities; however, the strength of influence was both scale- and community-dependent. (2) Tree genetics was the primary driver for endophytes, explaining 17% of variation in continental-scale community structure, whereas (3) climate was the strongest predictor of arthropod structure (24%). (4) Power to detect tree genotype—community phenotype associations changed with scale of genetic organization, increasing from individuals to populations to ecotypes, emphasizing the need to consider nonstationarity (i.e., changes in the effects of factors on ecological processes across scales) when inferring macrosystem properties. Our findings highlight the role of foundation tree species as drivers of macroscale community structure and provide macrosystems ecology with a theoretical framework for linking fine- and intermediate-scale genetic processes to landscape-scale patterns. Management of the genetic diversity harbored within foundation species is a critical consideration for conserving and sustaining regional biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number943
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Populus fremontii
  • arthropods
  • biodiversity management
  • community genetics
  • ecotype
  • fungal endophytes
  • macrosystems ecology
  • multiscale
  • nonstationarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry


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