The problem of scale dependency is widespread in investigations of ecological communities. Null model investigations of community assembly exemplify the challenges involved because they typically include subjectively defined ““regional species pools.”” The burgeoning field of community phylogenetics appears poised to face similar challenges. Our objective is to quantify the scope of the problem of scale dependency by comparing the phylogenetic structure of assemblages across contrasting geographic and taxonomic scales. We conduct phylogenetic analyses on communities within three tropical forests, and perform a sensitivity analysis with respect to two scaleable inputs: taxonomy and species pool size. We show that (1) estimates of phylogenetic overdispersion within local assemblages depend strongly on the taxonomic makeup of the local assemblage and (2) comparing the phylogenetic structure of a local assemblage to a species pool drawn from increasingly larger geographic scales results in an increased signal of phylogenetic clustering. We argue that, rather than posing a problem, ““scale sensitivities”” are likely to reveal general patterns of diversity that could help identify critical scales at which local or regional influences gain primacy for the structuring of communities. In this way, community phylogenetics promises to fill an important gap in community ecology and biogeography research.
Ecology – Ecological Society of America
Published: Oct 1, 2006
Keywords: community ecology ; forest dynamics plot ; phylogeny ; scaling ; species pool ; tropical forest
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