Phylogenetic generalised dissimilarity modelling: a new approach to analysing and predicting spatial turnover in the phylogenetic composition of communities


D. F. Rosauer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Univ. of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia. Present address of DFR: Division of Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Australian National Univ., Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. E-mail:


Compared to species turnover, patterns of phylogenetic turnover provide extra information about the spatial structure of biodiversity, for example providing more informative comparisons between the biota of sites which share no species. To harness this information for broad-scale spatial analysis, we present phylo-GDM, a technique for interpolating the spatial structure of phylogenetic turnover between sampled locations in relation to environment, based on generalised dissimilarity modelling (GDM).

Using a database of over 150 000 location records for 114 myobatrachid frog species in Australia, linked to a species-level phylogeny inferred from 2467 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA, we calculated species and phylogenetic turnover between pairs of sites. We show how phylogenetic turnover extended the range of informative comparison of compositional turnover to more biologically and environmentally dissimilar sites. We generated GDM models which predict species and phylogenetic turnover across Australia, and tested the fit of models for different ages within the phylogeny to find the phylogenetic tree depth at which the relationship to current day environment is greatest. We also incorporated explanatory variables based on biogeographic patterns, to represent broad-scale turnover resulting from divergent evolutionary histories. We found that while the predictive power of our models was lower for full phylogenetic turnover than for species turnover, models based on the more recent components of the phylogeny (closer to the tips) outperformed species models and full phylogenetic models.

Phylo-GDM has considerable potential as a method for incorporating phylogenetic relationships into biodiversity analyses in ways not previously possible. Because phylogenies do not require named taxa, phylo-GDM may also provide a means of including lineages with poorly resolved taxonomy (e.g. from metagenomic sequencing) into biodiversity planning and phylogeographic analysis.