, Volume 189, Issue 3, pp 745–755 | Cite as

Plant–plant interactions influence phylogenetic diversity at multiple spatial scales in a semi-arid mountain rangeland

  • Maral Pashirzad
  • Hamid EjtehadiEmail author
  • Jamil Vaezi
  • Richard P. Shefferson
Community ecology – original research


Molecular phylogenies are increasingly used to understand how biotic interactions and environment shape phylogenetic community structure (PCS). However, we do not understand the effects of plant–plant interactions and environment on PCS and phylogenetic diversity across spatial scales, particularly in rangelands. Here, we ask: (1) do plant–plant interactions and environment affect PCS and phylogenetic diversity differently across the three spatial scales of the patch, the community, and the habitat? (2) What are the impacts of dominant cushion-nurse plants on the phylogenetic structure of plant communities? We assessed the PCS of semi-arid plant communities along an elevation gradient at the patch, community and habitat scales. Then, we assessed co-occurrence patterns along two sample slopes. Our results indicated important roles for biotic interactions and environmental filtering in determining phylogenetic diversity, with biotic interactions, in particular, having a stronger tendency to increase phylogenetic diversity. This is most likely due to the asymmetrical effects of nurse plants across the three spatial scales on our two different slopes. The impact of biotic interactions caused non-random phylogenetic patterns in more severe environments. In conclusion, biotic interactions influence phylogenetic diversity by altering PCS across aspects and along elevation gradients.


Plant–plant interactions Environmental filtering Altered phylogenetic community structure Habitat specialization Micro-refugia 



We wish to thank Ferdowsi University of Mashhad for financial support. This study was funded by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (Grant Number: 3/41572).

Author contributions statement

MP performed the project, wrote the MS and analyzed all of data as a Ph.D. student. HE defined the project as the main supervisor. JV collaborated as the co-supervisor of the project. RS edited the MS, also allocated his laboratory in Tokyo university to carry out molecular experiments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2019_4345_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1134 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maral Pashirzad
    • 1
  • Hamid Ejtehadi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jamil Vaezi
    • 1
  • Richard P. Shefferson
    • 2
  1. 1.Quantitative Plant Ecology and Biodiversity Research Lab., Faculty of ScienceFerdowsi University of MashhadMashhadIran
  2. 2.Organization for Programs on Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Arts and SciencesUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan

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