EVOLUTIONARY ECOLOGY

Successional specialism in forests

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Science  25 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6255, pp. 1501
DOI: 10.1126/science.349.6255.1501-a

The types of tree species present in forests evolve over time

PHOTO: FRANS LANTING/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

In forests, different tree species tend to occupy different stages of ecological succession, a process whereby the species structure of a particular habitat changes over time. However, scientists do not fully understand the evolutionary relationships behind these patterns. Letcher et al. studied this in tropical forest tree species across a gradient of precipitation. Specialism for particular stages of succession tended to be more conserved in related species in wet forest species than in dry forest species. More extreme environmental differences between early and late successional habitats in wet forest than in dry forest may cause this pattern, leading to successional niche similarity within species-rich rainforest tree lineages.

J. Ecol. 103, 1276 (2015).

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