Journal Article

The role of seed traits in determining the phylogenetic structure of temperate plant communities

Filip Vandelook,, Miguel Verdú and Olivier Honnay

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 3, pages 629-636
Published in print August 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online June 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs121
The role of seed traits in determining the phylogenetic structure of temperate plant communities

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Phylogenetic clustering of species within plant communities can be expected to result from environmental filtering acting on an evolutionary-conserved plant trait. One such a candidate trait is the embryo to seed-size ratio (E:S). A high E:S may allow faster germination immediately after imbibition, and is therefore assumed to be advantageous in dry habitats. In this study the hypothesis was tested that habitat filtering driven by soil moisture conditions and acting on seed germination and seedling establishment is an important ecological mechanism in structuring temperate plant communities.

Methods

Vegetation samplings were performed in three habitats located within 200 km of each other in western Europe: Ellenberg indicator values showed that the habitats selected differed substantially in terms of soil moisture and light availability. E.S ratio and seed mass data for all genera were obtained from literature. Data were analysed using recently developed phylogenetic methods.

Key Results

Genera with a similar E:S tend to co-occur, as low and high E:S genera dominate in moist and dry habitats, respectively. A phylogenetically clustered pattern of community structure was evident, and dispersion of E:S was positively related to phylogenetic dispersion.

Conclusions

The phenotypically and phylogenetically clustered pattern indicates that E:S-mediated habitat filtering is an important assembly process structuring the plant community of the temperate climate habitats studied.

Keywords: Calcareous grassland; dune slacks; embryo size; habitat filtering; phylogenetic structure; plant community structure; seed mass; temperate forest

Journal Article.  5621 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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