Phylogenetic structure of Floridian plant communities depends on taxonomic and spatial scale

Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Adrienne Keen, Brianna Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

457 Scopus citations


Consideration of the scale at which communities are defined both taxonomically and spatially can reconcile apparently contradictory results on the extent to which plants show phylogenetic niche conservatism. In plant communities in north central Florida, we collected species abundances in 55 0.1-ha plots in several state parks. When communities were defined narrowly to include a single phylogenetic lineage, such as Quercus, Pinus, or Ilex, neighbors tended to be less related than expected (phylogenetic overdispersion) or there was no pattern. If the same communities were defined more broadly, such as when all seed plants were included, neighbors tended to be more related than expected (phylogenetic clustering). These results provide evidence that species interactions among close relatives influence community structure, but they also show that niche conservatism is increasingly evident as communities are defined to include greater phylogenetic diversity. We also found that, as the spatial scale is increased to encompass greater environmental heterogeneity, niche conservatism emerges as the dominant pattern. We then examined patterns of trait evolution in relation to trait similarity within communities for 11 functional traits for a single phylogenetic lineage (Quercus) and for all woody plants. Among the oaks, convergent evolution of traits important for environmental filtering contributes to the observed pattern of phylogenetic overdispersion. At the broader taxonomic scale, traits tend to be conserved, giving rise to phylogenetic clustering. The shift from overdispersion to clustering can be explained by the increasing conservatism of traits at broader phylogenetic scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S109-S122
Issue number7 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Florida
  • Ilex
  • Niche conservatism
  • Overdispersion
  • Phylogenetic structure of communities
  • Pinus
  • Quercus
  • Taxonomic scale
  • Trait convergence


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