Ecological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 1233–1243 | Cite as

Different trends in phylogenetic and functional structure of plant communities along an elevation gradient

  • Ryo KitagawaEmail author
  • Dai Koide
  • Akira S. Mori
Original Article


The study of diversity gradients due to elevation dates back to the foundation of biogeography and ecology. Although elevation-driven patterns of plant diversity have been reported for centuries, uncertainty still exists about the assembly rules that drive these patterns. In this study, we revealed the causal factor of community assemblies for the diversity of tree and herb species along an elevation. To this end, we applied an integrated method using both functional traits and phylogeny, called the mean pairwise functional-phylogenetic distance, to understand the assembly rules for woody and herbaceous species communities along an elevation gradient. At higher elevation sites, woody and herbaceous communities were comprised of species having similar traits. The phylogenetic trends for woody species were consistent with the functional trends; closely related species co-occurred more frequently than expected at higher elevations. Phylogenetic trends for herb species were opposite to the functional trends; species with similar traits but having a random phylogenetic distribution co-occurred at higher elevations. We suggest that the community assembly rules for woody and herb species vary with elevation; and functional constraints due to environmental filtering at higher elevation act as assembly rules along gradients in both woody and herbaceous communities, even though their phylogenetic backgrounds differ.


Functional diversity Phylogenetic diversity Plant community Assembly rule Elevation gradient 



This study could not have been completed without the particularly demanding fieldwork, and we are grateful to all who assisted with this work. We are particularly thankful to Takayuki Shiono, ToeToeAung, Ryo Maeshiro, Shenhua Qian, Takayuki Ohgue, and Keita Nishizawa. We thank Shinichi Tatsumi for instructive advice and field work. This research was supported by grants from the Sumitomo Foundation, the Japan Securities Scholarship Foundation, and Kajima Foundation. Logistical support for fieldwork was provided by the Shiretoko Foundation.

Author contributions

KR Originally formulated the idea, developed original idea, conducted fieldwork, performed statistical analyses, and wrote the manuscript. KD Developed original idea, conducted fieldwork and wrote the manuscript. MAS Originally formulated the idea, developed original idea, conducted fieldwork, and wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11284_2018_1638_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 3488 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environment and Information SciencesYokohama National UniversityYokohamaJapan
  2. 2.Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem StudiesNational Institute for Environmental StudiesTsukubaJapan

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