Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 355–369 | Cite as

Congruence between species phylogenetic and trophic distinctiveness

  • M. MirandaEmail author
  • F. Parrini
Original Paper


Preserving biodiversity has become vital in a time of rapid environmental changes since biodiversity loss compromises ecosystem functioning and subsequently services on which human welfare depends. Biodiversity encompasses taxonomic, process and structure heterogeneity and its evaluation requires an integrative approach. Additionally, different taxa have been shown to unequally contribute to biodiversity. Conservation efforts would benefit from focusing on taxa bearing a highly distinct contribution to multiple biodiversity components, for a more efficient retention of a sustainable level of biodiversity. Both phylogenetic diversity and interaction diversity are essential components of biodiversity. An association between phylogenetic affiliations and ecological interactions has been found for a wide range of organisms, with closely related species engaging in similar interactions. Further, nested (specialists using a subset of the resources used by generalists) and modular (subguilds of consumer–resource relationships) interaction structures have been identified to enhance the resilience of ecosystem dynamics. We combine phylogenetic and network analyses to evaluate the relationship between species contributions to phylogenetic diversity and their contributions to the diversity and structure of trophic interactions in an African assemblage of mammalian herbivores. We identified positive relationships between species contributions to phylogenetic diversity, interaction diversity and nested interaction structure. This means that conservation actions aiming at protecting evolutionary distinct species have the potential to simultaneously maximise interaction diversity and nested architecture. Species contributions to modular interaction patterns were nonetheless uncorrelated to contributions to phylogenetic diversity, and indicated the importance of some phylogenetic redundancy between species for retaining a modular structure in the system.


Herbivory Interaction uniqueness Evolutionary distinctiveness Phylogenetic diversity Savanna Trophic network 



The authors are grateful to North West Parks and Tourism Board and Kgaswane Mountain Reserve management, which provided free access and accommodation within the reserve premises and facilitated our work at all times. Dr Fredrik Dalerum provided advise on distinctiveness and uniqueness computations and statistics. MM was supported by a Free-standing Postdoctoral Fellowship co-funded by the National Research Foundation and the University of the Witwatersrand, and a Claude Leon Postdoctoral Fellowship. FP received financial support from the University of the Witwatersrand. Project funding was provided by the University of the Witwatersrand and the National Research Foundation.

Supplementary material

10531_2014_813_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (70 kb)
Phylogenetic distinctiveness PD and phylogenetic uniqueness PU of Perissodactyla and Cetartiodactyla terrestrial species occurring in the southern African region. (PDF 69 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for African Ecology, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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