Environmental heterogeneity drives population genetic divergence of a key agricultural pest, Empoasca onukii

Jinyu Li, Longqing Shi, Wei Chen, Yi Mao, Liette Vasseur, Geoff Gurr, Minsheng You, Shijun You

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic variance and functional connectivity are key for species resilience to environmental change. The tea green leafhopper Empoasca onukii has become the predominant and ubiquitous insect pest of tea in East Asia over the past decades, presenting an opportunity to explore associations between genetic variation/functional connectivity and environ-ment. Here, we examined inter-population genetic differentiation of E. onukii, and explicitly quantified the contributions of geographic distance, environmental heterogeneity, and landscape barriers, using data from 1704 individuals from 56 locations in mainland China and offshore islands. Analyses showed a pattern of reduced gene flow and higher genetic differentiation across the mountainous region of Western China, and the islands of Taiwan and Hainan. Aside the expected influence of geographic distance and landscape barriers, climatic differences contributed more strongly to population divergence than geographic distance and landscape barriers. Additionally, population genetic diversity significantly increased with the amplitude of local temperature fluctuations. These results suggest that the spatial genetic structure of E. onukii is primarily shaped by climatic differences. The findings may explain the observed increasing outbreak frequency under climate change and suggest a potentially good adaptation and accelerating performance of E. onukii under more variable future temperatures. This situation may also apply to other arthropod pests that have become more problematic under climate change. More broadly, this study demonstrates the usefulness of molecular genetic approaches in addressing the effects of environmental heterogeneity on natural population genetic variation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-313
Number of pages9
JournalEntomologia Generalis
Issue number2
Early online date22 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2023


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