Plant Diversity ›› 2022, Vol. 44 ›› Issue (04): 360-368.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2021.09.002

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Ontogenetic trait variation and metacommunity effects influence species relative abundances during tree community assembly

Yun-Yun Hea,b, Kwansupa Srisombuta,b, Ding-Liang Xingc, Nanthan G. Swensond, Mengesha Asefaa, Min Caoa, Xiao-Yang Songa, Han-Dong Wena, Jie Yanga,e   

  1. a CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, 666303, Yunnan, China;
    b University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, 100049, China;
    c School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, 200241, China;
    d Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, 46556, USA;
    e Center of Plant Ecology, Core Botanical Gardens, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, 666303, Yunnan, China
  • Received:2021-05-06 Revised:2021-08-31 Online:2022-06-25 Published:2022-08-13
  • Contact: Jie Yang,
  • Supported by:
    This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31800353), the Yunnan Fundamental Research Projects (202101AV070005), Yunnan High Level Talents Special Support Plan (YNWR-QNBJ-2018-309), Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB31000000), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y202080), the West Light Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. We thank Xishuangbanna Station for Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystem Studies and Ailaoshan Station for Subtropical Forest Ecosystem Studies of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden for assistance with the fieldwork. NGS was supported by the National Science Foundation United States (NSF DEB-2029997).

Abstract: Predicting species abundance is one of the most fundamental pursuits of ecology. Combining the information encoded in functional traits and metacommunities provides a new perspective to predict the abundance of species in communities. We applied a community assembly via trait selection model to predict quadrat-scale species abundances using functional trait variation on ontogenetic stages and metacommunity information for over 490 plant species in a subtropical forest and a lowland tropical forest in Yunnan, China. The relative importance of trait-based selection, mass effects, and stochasticity in shaping local species abundances is evaluated using different null models. We found both mass effects and trait selection contribute to local abundance patterns. Trait selection was detectable at all studied spatial scales (0.04-1 ha), with its strength stronger at larger scales and in the subtropical forest. In contrast, the importance of stochasticity decreased with spatial scale. A significant mass effect of the metacommunity was observed at small spatial scales. Our results indicate that tree community assembly is primarily driven by ontogenetic traits and metacommunity effects. Our findings also demonstrate that including ontogenetic trait variation into predictive frameworks allows ecologists to infer ecological mechanisms operating in community assembly at the individual level.

Key words: Metacommunity, Maximum entropy, Ontogenetic trait variation, Community assembly, Trait-selected process