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      Using Phylogenetic, Functional and Trait Diversity to Understand Patterns of Plant Community Productivity


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          Two decades of research showing that increasing plant diversity results in greater community productivity has been predicated on greater functional diversity allowing access to more of the total available resources. Thus, understanding phenotypic attributes that allow species to partition resources is fundamentally important to explaining diversity-productivity relationships.

          Methodology/Principal Findings

          Here we use data from a long-term experiment (Cedar Creek, MN) and compare the extent to which productivity is explained by seven types of community metrics of functional variation: 1) species richness, 2) variation in 10 individual traits, 3) functional group richness, 4) a distance-based measure of functional diversity, 5) a hierarchical multivariate clustering method, 6) a nonmetric multidimensional scaling approach, and 7) a phylogenetic diversity measure, summing phylogenetic branch lengths connecting community members together and may be a surrogate for ecological differences. Although most of these diversity measures provided significant explanations of variation in productivity, the presence of a nitrogen fixer and phylogenetic diversity were the two best explanatory variables. Further, a statistical model that included the presence of a nitrogen fixer, seed weight and phylogenetic diversity was a better explanation of community productivity than other models.


          Evolutionary relationships among species appear to explain patterns of grassland productivity. Further, these results reveal that functional differences among species involve a complex suite of traits and that perhaps phylogenetic relationships provide a better measure of the diversity among species that contributes to productivity than individual or small groups of traits.

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          Most cited references75

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          GenBank® is a comprehensive database that contains publicly available DNA sequences for more than 165 000 named organisms, obtained primarily through submissions from individual laboratories and batch submissions from large-scale sequencing projects. Most submissions are made using the web-based BankIt or standalone Sequin programs and accession numbers are assigned by GenBank staff upon receipt. Daily data exchange with the EMBL Data Library in the UK and the DNA Data Bank of Japan helps to ensure worldwide coverage. GenBank is accessible through NCBI's retrieval system, Entrez, which integrates data from the major DNA and protein sequence databases along with taxonomy, genome, mapping, protein structure and domain information, and the biomedical journal literature via PubMed. BLAST provides sequence similarity searches of GenBank and other sequence databases. Complete bimonthly releases and daily updates of the GenBank database are available by FTP. To access GenBank and its related retrieval and analysis services, go to the NCBI Homepage at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
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            Vegetation classification by reference to strategies

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              Influence of phylogeny on fungal community assembly and ecosystem functioning.

              Ecology seeks to explain species coexistence and its functional consequences, but experimental tests of mechanisms that simultaneously account for both processes are difficult. We used an experimental mycorrhizal plant system to test whether functional similarity among closely related species (phylogenetic conservatism) can drive community assembly and ecosystem functioning. Communities were constructed with the same number of fungal species, but after 1 year of growth, realized species richness was highest where the starting species were more distantly related to each other. Communities with high realized species richness also stimulated plant productivity more than those with low realized species richness. Our findings suggest that phylogenetic trait conservatism can promote coexistence because of reduced competition between distinct evolutionary lineages and enhance ecosystem function because of functional complementarity among those same lineages.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                27 May 2009
                : 4
                : 5
                [1 ]National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
                [2 ]Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto - Scarborough, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
                [3 ]Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota, United States of America
                [4 ]Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
                University of Sheffield, United Kingdom
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: MC JCB DT TO. Performed the experiments: JCB DT. Analyzed the data: MC TO. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: MC TO. Wrote the paper: MC JCB DT TO.

                Cadotte et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Research Article
                Ecology/Community Ecology and Biodiversity
                Ecology/Evolutionary Ecology
                Ecology/Plant-Environment Interactions
                Evolutionary Biology/Evolutionary Ecology



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