Phylogenetic turnover in tropical tree communities: impact of environmental filtering, biogeography and mesoclimatic niche conservatism


Olivier Hardy, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Evolutionary Biology and Ecology CP 160/12, 50 Av. F. D. Roosevelt, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium. E-mail:


Aim  We addressed the roles of environmental filtering, historical biogeography and evolutionary niche conservatism on the phylogenetic structure of tropical tree communities with the following questions. (1) What is the impact of mesoclimatic gradients and dispersal limitation on phylogenetic turnover and species turnover? (2) How does phylogenetic turnover between continents compare in intensity with the turnover driven by climatic gradients at a regional scale? (3) Are independent phylogenetic reconstructions of the mesoclimatic niche of clades congruent between continents?

Location  Panama Canal Watershed and Western Ghats (India), two anciently divergent biogeographic contexts but with comparable rainfall gradients.

Methods  Using floristic data for 50 1-ha plots in each region, independent measures of phylogenetic turnover (ΠST) and species turnover (Jaccard) between plots were regressed on geographic and ecological distances. Mesoclimatic niches were reconstructed for each node of the phylogeny and compared between the two continents.

Results  (1) The phylogenetic turnover within each region is best explained by mesoclimatic differences (environmental filtering), while species turnover depends both on mesoclimatic differences and geographic distances (dispersal limitation). (2) The phylogenetic turnover between continents (ΠST = 0.009) is comparable to that caused by mesoclimatic gradients within regions (ΠST = 0.010) and both effects seem cumulative. (3) Independent phylogenetic reconstructions of the mesoclimatic niches were strongly correlated between the two continents (r = 0.61), despite the absence of shared species.

Main conclusions  Our results demonstrate a world-wide deep phylogenetic signal for mesoclimatic niche within a biome, indicating that positive phylogenetic turnover at a regional scale reflects environmental filtering in plant communities.