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Local texture convergence: a new approach to seeking assembly rules

Authors

  • AJ. Watkins,

  • J. Bastow Wilson


A. J. Watkins and J. B. Wilson, Botany Department, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand (bastow@otago.ac.nz).

Abstract

Much of community-ecology theory describes (or even assumes) constraints on the coexistence of species. These constraints are often described using functional characters as an index to the niche of the species. The hypothesis/assumption is that those species which are too similar in functional characters, and hence in niche, cannot coexist. However, this body of theory is rarely tested. We attempted a test by making a prediction of texture convergence that follows logically from the theory, yet is simple enough to test – one based on similarity of ecological assembly between the patches of a community. We used replicate quadrats within twelve herbaceous communities. Eleven characters were measured, that were intended to reflect the functional above-ground niche of the species. We examined each character in turn, to test for ecological convergence to a similar mean within each community, with species either weighted equally (i.e. using species presence) or weighted by their biomass. Convergence with species weighted by their biomass was seen in chlorophyll content, indicating a significant tendency for each patch in a community to comprise a rather constant mixture of species types in terms of their different chlorophyll contents. In terms of species presence, texture divergence occurred in leafiness (LAR), specific leaf area (SLA) and leaf inclination, i.e. there was more variation between quadrats within a site than expected at random. However, significant results were sparse: the bulk of evidence is for no significant departure from a null model, i.e. no support for a widespread body of ecological theory.

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