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Phylogeny and the hierarchical organization of plant diversity

Silvertown, J., Dodd, M., Gowing, D., Lawson, C. and McConway, K. (2006) Phylogeny and the hierarchical organization of plant diversity. Ecology, 87 (7). S39-S49. ISSN 0012-9658

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[39:PATHOO]2.0.CO;2


R. H. Whittaker's idea that plant diversity can be divided into a hierarchy of spatial components from alpha at the within-habitat scale through beta for the turnover of species between habitats to gamma along regional gradients implies the underlying existence of alpha, beta, and gamma niches. We explore the hypothesis that the evolution of a, (3, and gamma niches is also hierarchical, with traits that define the a niche being labile, while those defining a and 7 niches are conservative. At the a level we find support for the hypothesis in the lack of close significant phylogenetic relationship between meadow species that have similar a niches. In a second test, a niche overlap based on a variety of traits is compared between congeners and noncongeners in several communities; here, too, there is no evidence of a correlation between a niche and phylogeny. To test whether beta and gamma niches evolve conservatively, we reconstructed the evolution of relevant traits on evolutionary trees for 14 different clades. Tests against null models revealed a number of instances, including some in island radiations, in which habitat (beta niche) and elevational maximum (an aspect of the gamma niche) showed evolutionary conservatism.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:9174
Uncontrolled Keywords:coexistence, community assembly, diversity, evolutionary lability, geographical range, habitat, hydrology, niche overlap, plant community, plant phylogeny, CENTRAL NEW-ENGLAND, RAIN-FOREST, ADAPTIVE RADIATION, SEQUENCE DATA, NICHE CONSERVATISM, SPECIES-RICHNESS, INDICATOR VALUES, MAPLES ACER, EVOLUTION, COMMUNITIES

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