Main content area

Discriminating among forest communities based on taxonomic, phylogenetic and trait distances

Hao, Minhui, Ganeshaiah, Kotiganahalli Narayanagowda, Zhang, Chunyu, Zhao, Xiuhai, von Gadow, Klaus
Forest ecology and management 2019 v.440 pp. 40-47
environmental factors, forest communities, forests, habitats, phylogeny, species diversity, China
Quantifying the compositional differences among communities is central to answering some of the most challenging questions in community ecology. Traditional species-based estimates of community dissimilarity convey little information regarding the biological heterogeneity of species. More refined phylogenetic- and functional-based measures can improve the understanding of ecological mechanisms that drive species composition. However, a generalized framework, which unifies taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional information of communities is still lackling. We present a new general framework for assessing the biological dissimilarity among communities based on species frequencies and biological (including taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional) distances between species. We used the observations collected in a 30-hectare forest plot in northeastern China to illustrate the application of the new approach and its ability to discriminate communities along spatial and environmental gradients. The results suggested that both spatial and environmental gradients play significant roles in driving the species composition of forest communities. Compared with spatial gradients, local environmental conditions had a greater influence. Conclusion: The ability to measure differences among communities, based on species frequency and biological distances is useful for estimating effects of habitat heterogeneity, for understanding the mechanism of community assembly, and for assessing disturbance effects or species invasions at local or global scales. The Avalanche approach presented in this study represents an effective framework for comparing different measures of biological dissimilarity in one compatible system.