Funded by the NSF 'Dimensions of Biodiversity' Program
Our project is examining the extent to which diversity at different levels of biological organization in host and microbiome communities influence functional diversity within ecosystems. Using approaches that scale from individual-to-population-to-species levels and above, this project seeks to understand ecological and evolutionary associations among the environment, genetic diversity, functional traits, and community assembly across both host and microbiome phylogenies in contemporary taxa and ancestral lineages. This research will integrate analyses of (1) intraspecific genetic diversity in a suite of freshwater mussel species, (2) phylogenetic diversity of communities of mussel species as well as their associated microbiomes, and (3) functional diversity of the mussel-microbiome holobiont. Integrating these three dimensions of biodiversity will allow us to comprehend the mechanisms that underpin the roles that freshwater mussels play in ecosystems, and to understand the fundamental ecological and evolutionary processes that structure biodiversity in space and over time.
Freshwater mussels are a highly imperiled, species-rich group of animals that play critical roles in rivers through their filter-feeding and cycling of nutrients. If the processes and mechanisms underlying patterns of biodiversity in these animals can be identified, managers will be better armed to make informed decisions for conservation and restoration efforts that will ultimately benefit the entire ecosystem.
This project was awarded to an integrative team of researchers at University of Alabama (Carla Atkinson, Jeff Lozier) and the University of Mississippi (Colin Jackson, Ryan Garrick). We will be collaborating with other researchers at the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, USGS, University of Florida, and University of Georgia to facilitate this work.