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Disentangling the functional trait correlates of spatial aggregation in tropical forest trees

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The data associated with this publication are in the supplemental files.

Environmental filtering and dispersal limitation can both maintain diversity in plant communities by aggregating conspecifics, but parsing the contribution of each process to community assembly has proven difficult empirically. Here we assess the contribution of filtering and dispersal limitation to the spatial aggregation patterns of 456 tree species in a hyperdiverse Amazonian forest and find distinct functional trait correlates of interspecific variation in these processes. Spatial point process model analysis revealed that both mechanisms are important drivers of intraspecific aggregation for the majority of species. Leaf drought tolerance was correlated with species topographic distributions in this aseasonal rainforest, showing that future increases in drought severity could significantly impact community structure. In addition, seed mass was associated with the spatial scale and density of dispersal‐related aggregation. Taken together, these results suggest variation in environmental filtering and dispersal limitation act in concert to influence the spatial and functional structure of diverse forest communities.

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