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Facilitation can increase the phylogenetic diversity of plant communities


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With the advent of molecular phylogenies the assessment of community assembly processes has become a central topic in community ecology. These processes have focused almost exclusively on habitat filtering and competitive exclusion. Recent evidence, however, indicates that facilitation has been important in preserving biodiversity over evolutionary time, with recent lineages conserving the regeneration niches of older, distant lineages. Here we test whether, if facilitation among distant-related species has preserved the regeneration niche of plant lineages, this has increased the phylogenetic diversity of communities. By analyzing a large worldwide database of species, we showed that the regeneration niches were strongly conserved across evolutionary history. Likewise, a phylogenetic supertree of all species of three communities driven by facilitation showed that nurse species facilitated distantly related species and increased phylogenetic diversity.