Analyzing community-weighted trait means across environmental gradients: should phylogeny stay or should it go?

Ecology
L D S DuarteJosé Alexandre F Diniz-Filho

Abstract

Functional traits mediate ecological responses of organisms to the environment, determining community structure. Community-weighted trait means (CWM) are often used to characterize communities by combining information on species traits and distribution. Relating CWM variation to environmental gradients allows for evaluating species sorting across the metacommunity, either based on correlation tests or ordinary least squares (OLS) models. Yet, it is not clear if phylogenetic signal in both traits and species distribution affect those analyses. On one hand, phylogenetic signal might indicate niche conservatism along clade evolution, reinforcing the environmental signal in trait assembly patterns. On the other hand, it might introduce phylogenetic autocorrelation to mean trait variation among communities. Under this latter scenario, phylogenetic signal might inflate type I error in analysis relating CWM variation to environmental gradients. We explore multiple ways phylogenetic history may influence analysis relating CWM to environmental gradients. We propose the concept of neutral trait diffusion, which predicts that for a functional trait x, CWM variation among local communities does not deviate from the expectation that x evolv...Continue Reading

References

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Citations

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