The Open UniversitySkip to content

Phylogeny and the hierarchical organization of plant diversity

Silvertown, Jonathan; Dodd, Mike; Gowing, David; Lawson, Clare and McConway, Kevin (2006). Phylogeny and the hierarchical organization of plant diversity. Ecology, 87(7, Sup) S39-S49.

Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


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: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2006 Ecological Society of America
ISSN: 0012-9658
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not SetNot SetRoyal Society travel grant
Keywords: coexistence; community assembly; diversity; evolutionary lability; geographical range; habitat; hydrology; niche overlap; plant community; plant phylogeny
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Mathematics and Statistics
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Item ID: 27595
Depositing User: Michael Dodd
Date Deposited: 22 Mar 2011 13:17
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 09:51
Share this page:

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU