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Ecology. 2010 Dec;91(12):3656-63.

Neighborhood phylodiversity affects plant performance.

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Departamento de Ecología de la Biodiversidad, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, A.P. 70-275, C.P. 04510, México, DF, Mexico.


Facilitation and competition are ecological interactions that are crucial for the organization of plant communities. Facilitative interactions tend to occur among distantly related species, while the strength of competition tends to decrease with phylogenetic distance. The balance between both types of interactions will ultimately determine the specific composition of multispecies associations. Although multispecies patches are the arena in which coexistence develops among different phylogenetic groups within communities, the specific processes that occur across life stages have not been explored. Here we study how different species, in composing discrete patches in central Mexico, exert competitive or facilitative effects on seeds and seedlings. We relate these interactions to phylogenetic relationships among nurse species and beneficiary species, and among members of the patches. Survivorship and growth rates of the columnar cactus Neobuxbaumia mezcalaensis were highly positively related to increasing phylogenetic distance to different nurse species, to the presence of related species in patches, and to mean phylogenetic distances to the rest of the species in the patch. Each of these three elements influenced N. mezcalaensis differently, with different nurse species varying substantially in their early effects on emergence, and the nearest relatives and species composition of patches varying in their late effects on survival and growth. Our results emphasize that evolutionary relationships among co-occurring species in vegetation clumps exert direct and indirect effects on plants, affecting individual performance and species coexistence.

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