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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Pollinator movement activity influences genetic diversity and differentiation of spatially isolated populations of clonal forest herbs

Feigs, Jannis Till; Holzhauer, Stephanie I. J.; Huang, Siyu; Brunet, Joerg; Diekmann, Martin; Hedwall, Per-Ola; Kramp, Katja; Naaf, Tobias


In agricultural landscapes, forest herbs live in small, spatially isolated forest patches. For their long-term survival, their populations depend on animals as genetic linkers that provide pollen- or seed-mediated gene flow among different forest patches. However, whether insect pollinators serve as genetic linkers among spatially isolated forest herb populations in agricultural landscapes remains to be shown. Here, we used population genetic methods to analyze: (A) the genetic diversity and genetic differentiation of populations of two common, slow-colonizing temperate forest herb species [Polygonatum multiflorum (L.) All. and Anemone nemorosa L.] in spatially isolated populations within three agricultural landscapes in Germany and Sweden and (B) the movement activity of their most relevant associated pollinator species, i.e., the bumblebee Bombus pascuorum (Scopoli, 1,763) and the hoverfly Melanostoma scalare (Fabricus, 1,794), respectively, which differ in their mobility. We tested whether the indicated pollinator movement activity affected the genetic diversity and genetic differentiation of the forest herb populations. Bumblebee movement indicators that solely indicated movement activity between the forest patches affected both genetic diversity and genetic differentiation of the associated forest herb P. multiflorum in a way that can be explained by pollen-mediated gene flow among the forest herb populations. In contrast, movement indicators reflecting the total movement activity at a forest patch (including within-forest patch movement activity) showed unexpected effects for both plant-pollinator pairs that might be explained by accelerated genetic drift due to enhanced sexual reproduction. Our integrated approach revealed that bumblebees serve as genetic linkers of associated forest herb populations, even if they are more than 2 km apart from each other. No such evidence was found for the forest associated hoverfly species which showed significant genetic differentiation among forest patches itself. Our approach also indicated that a higher within-forest patch movement activity of both pollinator species might enhance sexual recruitment and thus diminishes the temporal buffer that clonal growth provides against habitat fragmentation effects.


colony; genetic linker; habitat fragmentation; heterozygote excess; SSR; mobility; movement indicators; plant-pollinator interaction

Published in

Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
2022, volume: 10, article number: 908258

Authors' information

Feigs, Jannis Till
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Holzhauer, Stephanie I. J.
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Huang, Siyu
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Diekmann, Martin
University of Bremen
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Kramp, Katja
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Naaf, Tobias
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

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