A river runs through it: The causes, consequences, and management of intraspecific diversity in river networks

Rivers are fascinating ecosystems in which the eco‐evolutionary dynamics of organisms are constrained by particular features, and biologists have developed a wealth of knowledge about freshwater biodiversity patterns. Over the last 10 years, our group used a holistic approach to contribute to this knowledge by focusing on the causes and consequences of intraspecific diversity in rivers. We conducted empirical works on temperate permanent rivers from southern France, and we broadened the scope of our findings using experiments, meta‐analyses, and simulations. We demonstrated that intraspecific (genetic) diversity follows a spatial pattern (downstream increase in diversity) that is repeatable across taxa (from plants to vertebrates) and river systems. This pattern can result from interactive processes that we teased apart using appropriate simulation approaches. We further experimentally showed that intraspecific diversity matters for the functioning of river ecosystems. It indeed affects not only community dynamics, but also key ecosystem functions such as litter degradation. This means that losing intraspecific diversity in rivers can yield major ecological effects. Our work on the impact of multiple human stressors on intraspecific diversity revealed that—in the studied river systems—stocking of domestic (fish) strains strongly and consistently alters natural spatial patterns of diversity. It also highlighted the need for specific analytical tools to tease apart spurious from actual relationships in the wild. Finally, we developed original conservation strategies at the basin scale based on the systematic conservation planning framework that appeared pertinent for preserving intraspecific diversity in rivers. We identified several important research avenues that should further facilitate our understanding of patterns of local adaptation in rivers, the identification of processes sustaining intraspecific biodiversity–ecosystem function relationships, and the setting of reliable conservation plans.


conservation genetics, dendritic networks, eco-evolutionary dynamics, ecosystem services, intraspecific diversity

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Blanchet Simon, Prunier Jérôme G., Paz‐vinas Ivan, Saint‐pé Keoni, Rey Olivier, Raffard Allan, Mathieu‐bégné Eglantine, Loot Géraldine, Fourtune Lisa, Dubut Vincent (2020). A river runs through it: The causes, consequences, and management of intraspecific diversity in river networks. Evolutionary Applications. 13 (6). 1195-1213. https://doi.org/10.1111/eva.12941, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00617/72935/

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