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Phylogenetic Patterns of Colonization and Extinction in Experimentally Assembled Plant Communities



Evolutionary history has provided insights into the assembly and functioning of plant communities, yet patterns of phylogenetic community structure have largely been based on non-dynamic observations of natural communities. We examined phylogenetic patterns of natural colonization, extinction and biomass production in experimentally assembled communities.

Methodology/principal findings

We used plant community phylogenetic patterns two years after experimental diversity treatments (1, 2, 4, 8 or 32 species) were discontinued. We constructed a 5-gene molecular phylogeny and statistically compared relatedness of species that colonized or went extinct to remaining community members and patterns of aboveground productivity. Phylogenetic relatedness converged as species-poor plots were colonized and speciose plots experienced extinctions, but plots maintained more differences in composition than in phylogenetic diversity. Successful colonists tended to either be closely or distantly related to community residents. Extinctions did not exhibit any strong relatedness patterns. Finally, plots that increased in phylogenetic diversity also increased in community productivity, though this effect was inseparable from legume colonization, since these colonists tended to be phylogenetically distantly related.


We found that successful non-legume colonists were typically found where close relatives already existed in the sown community; in contrast, successful legume colonists (on their own long branch in the phylogeny) resulted in plots that were colonized by distant relatives. While extinctions exhibited no pattern with respect to relatedness to sown plotmates, extinction plus colonization resulted in communities that converged to similar phylogenetic diversity values, while maintaining differences in species composition.

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