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Am Nat. 2010 Nov;176(5):E128-42. doi: 10.1086/656486.

Phylogenetic metrics of community similarity.

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Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

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  • Am Nat. 2011 Oct;178(4):559.


We derive a new metric of community similarity that takes into account the phylogenetic relatedness among species. This metric, phylogenetic community dissimilarity (PCD), can be partitioned into two components, a nonphylogenetic component that reflects shared species between communities (analogous to Sørensen' s similarity metric) and a phylogenetic component that reflects the evolutionary relationships among nonshared species. Therefore, even if a species is not shared between two communities, it will increase the similarity of the two communities if it is phylogenetically related to species in the other community. We illustrate PCD with data on fish and aquatic macrophyte communities from 59 temperate lakes. Dissimilarity between fish communities associated with environmental differences between lakes often has a phylogenetic component, whereas this is not the case for macrophyte communities. With simulations, we then compare PCD with two other metrics of phylogenetic community similarity, II(ST) and UniFrac. Of the three metrics, PCD was best at identifying environmental drivers of community dissimilarity, showing lower variability and greater statistical power. Thus, PCD is a statistically powerful metric that separates the effects of environmental drivers on compositional versus phylogenetic components of community structure.

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