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Functional Traits and Niche-Based Tree Community Assembly in an Amazonian Forest

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Science  24 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5901, pp. 580-582
DOI: 10.1126/science.1160662

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Abstract

It is debated whether species-level differences in ecological strategy, which play a key role in much of coexistence theory, are important in structuring highly diverse communities. We examined the co-occurrence patterns of over 1100 tree species in a 25-hectare Amazonian forest plot in relation to field-measured functional traits. Using a null model approach, we show that co-occurring trees are often less ecologically similar than a niche-free (neutral) model predicts. Furthermore, we find evidence for processes that simultaneously drive convergence and divergence in key aspects of plant strategy, suggesting that at least two distinct niche-based processes are occurring. Our results show that strategy differentiation among species contributes to the maintenance of diversity in one of the most diverse tropical forests in the world.

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