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  1. Abstract

    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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  2. Abstract

    Multiple disturbances can have mixed effects on biodiversity. Whether the interaction of sequential disturbances drives local extinctions or promotes diversity depends on the severity of biomass reductions relative to any stabilizing and/or equalizing effects generated by the disturbance regimes.

    Through a manipulative mesocosm experiment, we examined how warming events in the fall and simulated grazing disturbance (i.e. clipping) in the winter affected the density, biomass and genotypic diversity of assemblages of the clonal seagrassZostera marina.

    We show that the interaction of the two disturbance types reduced density and biomass to a greater degree than warming or clipping alone.

    The genotype with the highest biomass in the assemblage shifted under the different experimental regimes such that the traits of winners were distinct in the different treatments. The favouring of different traits by different disturbances led to reduced evenness when a single disturbance was applied, and enhanced evenness under multiple disturbances.

    We conclude that sequential disturbances can alter the outcome of inter‐genotypic interactions and maintain genotypic diversity in clonal populations. Our study expands the context in which disturbance can influence intraspecific diversity by showing that fluctuating selection may result from the sequential application of different disturbance types and not simply seasonal changes in a single agent.

    A freePlain Language Summarycan be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

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