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Title: Disturbance decreases genotypic diversity by reducing colonization: Implications for disturbance–diversity feedbacks

One objective of eco‐evolutionary dynamics is to understand how the interplay between ecology and evolution on contemporary timescales contributes to the maintenance of biodiversity. Disturbance is an ecological process that can alter species diversity through both ecological and evolutionary effects on colonization and extinction dynamics. While analogous mechanisms likely operate among genotypes within a population, empirical evidence demonstrating the relationship between disturbance and genotypic diversity remains limited. We experimentally tested how disturbance altered the colonization (gain) and extinction (loss) of genets within a population of the marine angiospermZostera marina(eelgrass). In a 2‐year field experiment conducted in northern California, we mimicked grazing disturbance by migratory geese by clipping leaves at varying frequencies during the winter months. Surprisingly, we found the greatest rates of new colonization in the absence of disturbance and that clipping had negligible effects on extinction. We hypothesize that genet extinction was not driven by selective mortality from clipping or from any stochastic loss resulting from the reduced shoot densities in clipped plots. We also hypothesize that increased flowering effort and facilitation within and among clones drove the increased colonization of new genets in the undisturbed treatment. This balance between colonization and extinction resulted in a negative relationship between clipping frequency and net changes in genotypic richness. We interpret our results in light of prior work showing that genotypic diversity increased resistance to grazing disturbance. We suggest that both directions of a feedback between disturbance and diversity occur in this system with consequences for the maintenance of eelgrass genotypic diversity.

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