Temporal turnover in the composition of tropical tree communities: functional determinism and phylogenetic stochasticity

Authors

  • Nathan G. Swenson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 USA
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  • James C. Stegen,

    1. Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599 USA
    2. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Fundamental and Computational Sciences Directorate, Biological Sciences Division, Richland, Washington 99352 USA
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  • Stuart J. Davies,

    1. Center for Tropical Forest Science, Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA
    2. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 0843-03092, Balboa Ancón, Republic of Panama
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  • David L. Erickson,

    1. Department of Botany, MRC-166, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 USA
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  • Jimena Forero-Montaña,

    1. Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00931 USA
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  • Allen H. Hurlbert,

    1. Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599 USA
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  • W. John Kress,

    1. Department of Botany, MRC-166, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, P.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C. 20013-7012 USA
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  • Jill Thompson,

    1. Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00931 USA
    2. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Edinburgh, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian, Scotland EH26 0QB United Kingdom
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  • María Uriarte,

    1. Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027 USA
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  • S. Joseph Wright,

    1. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, P.O. Box 0843-03092, Balboa Ancón, Republic of Panama
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  • Jess K. Zimmerman

    1. Institute for Tropical Ecosystem Studies, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico 00931 USA
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  • Corresponding Editor: D. S. Srivastava.

Abstract

The degree to which turnover in biological communities is structured by deterministic or stochastic factors and the identities of influential deterministic factors are fundamental, yet unresolved, questions in ecology. Answers to these questions are particularly important for projecting the fate of forests with diverse disturbance histories worldwide. To uncover the processes governing turnover we use species-level molecular phylogenies and functional trait data sets for two long-term tropical forest plots with contrasting disturbance histories: one forest is older-growth, and one was recently disturbed. Having both phylogenetic and functional information further allows us to parse out the deterministic influences of different ecological filters. With the use of null models we find that compositional turnover was random with respect to phylogeny on average, but highly nonrandom with respect to measured functional traits. Furthermore, as predicted by a deterministic assembly process, the older-growth and disturbed forests were characterized by less than and greater than expected functional turnover, respectively. These results suggest that the abiotic environment, which changes due to succession in the disturbed forest, strongly governs the temporal dynamics of disturbed and undisturbed tropical forests. Predicting future changes in the composition of disturbed and undisturbed forests may therefore be tractable when using a functional-trait-based approach.

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