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Proc Biol Sci. 2010 Jan 7;277(1678):97-104. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.0865. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

Phylogenetic structure of angiosperm communities during tropical forest succession.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut, 75 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, CT 06269-3043, USA.


The phylogenetic structure of ecological communities can shed light on assembly processes, but the focus of phylogenetic structure research thus far has been on mature ecosystems. Here, I present the first investigation of phylogenetic community structure during succession. In a replicated chronosequence of 30 sites in northeastern Costa Rica, I found strong phylogenetic overdispersion at multiple scales: species present at local sites were a non-random assemblage, more distantly related than chance would predict. Phylogenetic overdispersion was evident when comparing the species present at each site with the regional species pool, the species pool found in each age category to the regional pool or the species present at each site to the pool of species found in sites of that age category. Comparing stem size classes within each age category, I found that during early succession, phylogenetic overdispersion is strongest in small stems. Overdispersion strengthens and spreads into larger size classes as succession proceeds, corroborating an existing model of forest succession. This study is the first evidence that succession leaves a distinct signature in the phylogenetic structure of communities.

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