Species and genetic diversity relationships in benthic macroinvertebrate communities along a salinity gradient

H. Cecilie Petersen*, Benni W. Hansen, K. Emily Knott, Gary T. Banta

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Species- and genetic diversity can change in parallel, resulting in a species-genetic diversity correlation (SGDC) and raising the question if the same drivers influence both biological levels of diversity. The SGDC can be either positive or negative, depending on whether the species diversity and the genetic diversity of the measured species respond in the same or opposite way to drivers. Using a traditional species diversity approach together with ultra-conserved elements and high throughput sequencing, we evaluated the SGDCs in benthic macrofauna communities in the Baltic Sea, a geologically young brackish water sea characterised by its steep salinity gradient and low species richness. Assessing SGDCs from six focal marine invertebrate species from different taxonomic groups and with differing life histories and ecological functions on both a spatial and temporal scale gives a more comprehensive insight into the community dynamics of this young ecosystem and the extrinsic factors that might drive the SGDCs.

RESULTS: No significant correlations between species diversity and genetic diversity were found for any of the focal species. However, both negative and positive trends of SGDCs for the individual focal species were observed. When examining the environmental drivers, no common trends between the species were found, even when restricting the analysis to specific taxonomic classes. Additionally, there were no common environmental factors driving the diversity relationships for species sharing the same SGDC trend (positive or negative). Local population dynamics, together with the invasion history of the individual species and their unique adaptation to the distinctive environment of the Baltic Sea, are expected to be of major influence on the outcome of the SGDCs.

CONCLUSIONS: The present results highlight the importance of assessing SGDCs using multiple species, not just a single indicator species. This emphasises a need to pay attention to the ecology and life history of the focal species. This study also provides insight into the large differences in both patterns and drivers of genetic diversity, which is important when including genetic biodiversity in conservation plans. We conclude that the effects of environmental and biological factors and processes that affects diversity patterns at both the community and genetic levels are likely species dependent, even in an environment such as the Baltic Sea with strong environmental gradients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125
JournalBMC Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Genetic diversity
  • Macrobenthos
  • Salinity
  • SGDC
  • Spatial and temporal patterns
  • Species diversity
  • Ultra-conserved elements
  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Invertebrates/genetics
  • Biodiversity
  • Genetic Variation/genetics


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