Community assembly and function in the light of evolutionary history

The quest to understand the fundamental processes determining species coexistence and resulting patterns of diversity has been of central importance for community ecologists for a century. In spite of a rich literature, the question remains: How important are species’ similarities and differences in generating the ecological communities and processes we observe? Our current understanding is that the ability of a species to enter a community depends on two things: the degree of overlap in resource use, where niche partitioning promotes stable coexistence, and the magnitude of fitness differences among species. I will use evolutionary relationships and trait differences among plant species to understand mechanisms of coexistence, and therefore community diversity patterns. We will perform a large experimental manipulation of plant diversity at Jokers Hill to see how much evolutionary history matters in ecosystem processes such as biomass production and maintaining pollinator diversity. Plots will be seeded with 1, 2, 4 or 6 species of tall grass prairie plants. Within each of these diversity levels, there will be differing levels of evolutionary relationships with species either being closely, moderately, or distantly related. This experiment will reveal how communities function and why maintaining diversity matters

Principal Investigator: Marc Cadotte



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