Intraspecific leaf trait variability along a boreal-to-tropical community diversity gradientReport as inadecuate

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Disentangling the mechanisms that shape community assembly across diversity gradients is a central matter in ecology. While many studies have explored community assembly through species average trait values, there is a growing understanding that intraspecific trait variation ITV can also play a critical role in species coexistence. Classic biodiversity theory hypothesizes that higher diversity at species-rich sites can arise from narrower niches relative to species-poor sites, which would be reflected in reduced ITV as species richness increases. To explore how ITV in woody plant communities changes with species richness, we compiled leaf trait data leaf size and specific leaf area in a total of 521 woody plant species from 21 forest communities that differed dramatically in species richness, ranging from boreal to tropical rainforests. At each forest, we assessed ITV as an estimate of species niche breadth and we quantified the degree of trait overlap among co-occurring species as a measure of species functional similarity. We found ITV was relatively invariant across the species richness gradient. In addition, we found that species functional similarity increased with diversity. Contrary to the expectation from classic biodiversity theory, our results rather suggest that neutral processes or equalizing mechanisms can be acting as potential drivers shaping community assembly in hyperdiverse forests.

Author: Cristina C. Bastias , Claire Fortunel, Fernando Valladares, Christopher Baraloto, Raquel Benavides, William Cornwell, Lars Markes



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