Phylogenetic structure is determined by patch size in rock outcrop vegetation on an inselberg in the northern Amazon region

<div><p>ABSTRACT Although inselbergs from around the world are iconic ecosystems, little is known on the underlying mechanisms of community assembly, especially in their characteristic patchy outcrop vegetation. Environmental constraints are expected to cause phylogenetic clustering when ecological niches are conserved within evolutionary lineages. We tested whether vegetation patches from rock outcrops of the Piedra La Tortuga Natural Monument, in the northern Amazon region, are phylogenetically clustered, indicating that environmental filtering is the dominant driver of community assemblage therein. We classified all patches according to their size as very small (< 1 m2), small (1-4 m2), medium-sized (4-8 m2), and large patches (8-15 m2). From each class, we randomly selected 10 patches, totalizing 40 patches covering 226 m2. All individuals found in the 40 isolated patches were identified to the species level. We also correlated measurements of phylogenetic community structure with patch size. We found that species from patches are restricted to the clades monocots, fabids, malvids, and lamiids. We conclude that vegetation in this rock outcrop is phylogenetically clustered. Furthermore, we found that phylogenetic turnover between pairs of patches increases with patch size, which is consistent with a scenario of higher environmental stress in smaller patches. Further research is necessary to identify nurse species in inselberg vegetation, which is pivotal for conservation and restoration of this particular ecosystem.</p></div>