Competitive interactions between forest trees are driven by species' trait hierarchy, not phylogenetic or functional similarity

Implications for forest community assembly

Georges Kunstler*, Sébastien Lavergne, Benoît Courbaud, Wilfried Thuiller, Ghislain Vieilledent, Niklaus E. Zimmermann, Jens Kattge, David A. Coomes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

200 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The relative importance of competition vs. environmental filtering in the assembly of communities is commonly inferred from their functional and phylogenetic structure, on the grounds that similar species compete most strongly for resources and are therefore less likely to coexist locally. This approach ignores the possibility that competitive effects can be determined by relative positions of species on a hierarchy of competitive ability. Using growth data, we estimated 275 interaction coefficients between tree species in the French mountains. We show that interaction strengths are mainly driven by trait hierarchy and not by functional or phylogenetic similarity. On the basis of this result, we thus propose that functional and phylogenetic convergence in local tree community might be due to competition-sorting species with different competitive abilities and not only environmental filtering as commonly assumed. We then show a functional and phylogenetic convergence of forest structure with increasing plot age, which supports this view.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-840
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Volume15
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Keywords

  • Community assembly
  • Competition
  • Environmental filtering
  • Functional similarity
  • Niche similarity
  • Phylogenetic relatedness
  • Plant interaction
  • Traits hierarchy

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