THE INFLUENCE OF SPATIAL AND SIZE SCALE ON PHYLOGENETIC RELATEDNESS IN TROPICAL FOREST COMMUNITIES
The relative importance of biotic, abiotic, and stochastic processes in structuring ecological communities continues to be a central focus in community ecology. In order to assess the role of phylogenetic relatedness on the nature of biodiversity we first quantified the degree of phylogenetic niche conservatism of several plant traits linked to plant form and function. Next we quantified the degree of phylogenetic relatedness across two fundamental scaling dimensions: plant size and neighborhood size. The results show that phylogenetic niche conservatism is likely widespread, indicating that closely related species are more functionally similar than distantly related species. Utilizing this information we show that three of five tropical forest dynamics plots (FDPs) exhibit similar scale-dependent patterns of phylogenetic structuring using only a spatial scaling axis. When spatial- and size-scaling axes were analyzed in concert, phylogenetic overdispersion of co-occurring species was most important at small spatial scales and in four of five FDPs for the largest size class. These results suggest that phylogenetic relatedness is increasingly important: (1) at small spatial scales, where phylogenetic overdispersion is more common, and (2) in large size classes, where phylogenetic overdispersion becomes more common throughout ontogeny. Collectively, our results highlight the critical spatial and size scales at which the degree of phylogenetic relatedness between constituent species influences the structuring of tropical forest diversity.