, Volume 175, Issue 3, pp 985-995,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 09 May 2014

Small-scale spatial variability in phylogenetic community structure during early plant succession depends on soil properties


During early plant succession, the phylogenetic structure of a community changes in response to important environmental filters and emerging species interactions. We traced the development of temperate-zone plant communities during the first 7 years of primary succession on catchment soils to explore patterns of initial species assembly. We found pronounced small-scale differences in the phylogenetic composition of neighbouring plant assemblages and a large-scale trend towards phylogenetic evenness. This small-scale variability appears to be mediated by soil properties, particularly carbonate content. Therefore, abiotic environmental conditions might counteract or even supersede the effects of interspecific competition among closely related species, which are usually predicted to exhibit patterns of phylogenetic evenness. We conclude that theories on phylogenetic community composition need to incorporate effects of small-scale variability of environmental factors.

Communicated by Bryan Foster.