Influence of Phylogeny on Fungal Community Assembly and Ecosystem Functioning

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Science  22 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5832, pp. 1746-1748
DOI: 10.1126/science.1143082

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Ecology seeks to explain species coexistence and its functional consequences, but experimental tests of mechanisms that simultaneously account for both processes are difficult. We used an experimental mycorrhizal plant system to test whether functional similarity among closely related species (phylogenetic conservatism) can drive community assembly and ecosystem functioning. Communities were constructed with the same number of fungal species, but after 1 year of growth, realized species richness was highest where the starting species were more distantly related to each other. Communities with high realized species richness also stimulated plant productivity more than those with low realized species richness. Our findings suggest that phylogenetic trait conservatism can promote coexistence because of reduced competition between distinct evolutionary lineages and enhance ecosystem function because of functional complementarity among those same lineages.

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