Plant functional and phylogenetic turnover correlate with climate and land use in the Western Swiss Alps

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Ndiribe, C.
Pellissier, L.
Dubuis, A.
Vittoz, P.
Salamin, N.
Guisan, A.
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Oxford University Press
Aims Understanding the relative importance of historical and environmental processes in the structure and composition of communities is one of the longest quests in ecological research. Increasingly, researchers are relying on the functional and phylogenetic β-diversity of natural communities to provide concise explanations on the mechanistic basis of community assembly and the drivers of trait variation among species. The present study investigated how plant functional and phylogenetic β-diversity change along key environmental and spatial gradients in the Western Swiss Alps. Methods Using the quadratic diversity measure based on six functional traits—specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, plant height, leaf carbon content, leaf nitrogen content and leaf carbon to nitrogen content alongside a species-resolved phylogenetic tree—we relate variations in climate, spatial geographic, land use and soil gradients to plant functional and phylogenetic turnover in mountain communities of the Western Swiss Alps. Important Findings Our study highlights two main points. First, climate and landuse factors play an important role in mountain plant community turnover. Second, the overlap between plant functional and phylogenetic turnover along these gradients correlates with the low phylogenetic signal in traits, suggesting that in mountain landscapes, trait lability is likely an important factor in driving plant community assembly. Overall, we demonstrate the importance of climate and land-use factors in plant functional and phylogenetic community turnover and provide valuable complementary insights into understanding patterns of β-diversity along several ecological gradients.
ecological gradients, functional and phylogenetic β-diversity, plant community turnover, Rao’s quadratic entropy index (Q), Western Swiss Alps
Ndiribe, C., Pellissier, L., Dubuis, A., Vittoz, P., Salamin, N. and Guisan, A., 2013. Plant functional and phylogenetic turnover correlate with climate and land use in the Western Swiss Alps. Journal of Plant Ecology, 7(5), pp.439-450.