TitleThe thermal niche and phylogenetic assembly of evergreen tree metacommunities in a mid-to-upper tropical montane zone.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsDas AAbin, Ratnam J
JournalProc Biol Sci
Date Published2022 Jun 29
KeywordsBiological Evolution, Cold Temperature, Fever, Forests, Phylogeny, Wood

Frost and freezing temperatures have posed an obstacle to tropical woody evergreen plants over evolutionary time scales. Thus, along tropical elevation gradients, frost may influence woody plant community structure by filtering out lowland tropical clades and allowing extra-tropical lineages to establish at higher elevations. Here we assess the extent to which frost and freezing temperatures influence the taxonomic and phylogenetic structure of naturally patchy evergreen forests (locally known as ) along a mid-upper montane elevation gradient in the Western Ghats, India. Specifically, we examine the role of large-scale macroclimate and factors affecting local microclimates, including patch size and distance from edge, in driving metacommunity structure. We find that the metacommunity shows phylogenetic overdispersion with elevation, with greater representation of extra-tropical lineages above 2000 m, and marked turnover in taxonomic composition of woody communities near the frost-affected forest edge above 2000 m, from those below 2000 m. Both minimum winter temperature and patch size were equally important in determining metacommunity structure, with plots inside very large dominated by older tropical lineages, with many endemics. Phylogenetic overdispersion in the upper montane metacommunity thus resulted from tropical lineages persisting in the interiors of large closed frost-free where their regeneration niche has been preserved over time.

Alternate JournalProc Biol Sci
PubMed ID35765839