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Multispecies coexistence of trees in tropical forests: spatial signals of topographic niche differentiation increase with environmental heterogeneity

Brown, C.; Burslem, D.F.R P.; Illian, J.B.; Bao, L.; Brockelman, W.; Cao, M.; Chang, L.W.; Dattaraja, H.S.; Davies, S.; Gunatilleke, C.V.S.; Gunatilleke, I.A.U.N; Huang, J.; Kassim, A.R.; LaFrankie, J.V.; Lian, J.; Lin, L.; Ma, K.; Mi, X.; Nathalang, A.; Noor, S.; Ong, P.; Sukumar, R.; Su, S.H.; Sun, I.F.; Suresh, H.S.; Tan, S.; Thompson, J.; Uriarte, M.; Valencia, R.; Yap, S.L.; Ye, W.; Law, R.. 2013 Multispecies coexistence of trees in tropical forests: spatial signals of topographic niche differentiation increase with environmental heterogeneity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280 (1764), 20130502. 10.1098/rspb.2013.0502

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Abstract/Summary

Neutral and niche theories give contrasting explanations for the maintenance of tropical tree species diversity. Both have some empirical support, but methods to disentangle their effects have not yet been developed. We applied a statistical measure of spatial structure to data from 14 large tropical forest plots to test a prediction of niche theory that is incompatible with neutral theory: that species in heterogeneous environments should separate out in space according to their niche preferences. We chose plots across a range of topographic heterogeneity, and tested whether pairwise spatial associations among species were more variable in more heterogeneous sites. We found strong support for this prediction, based on a strong positive relationship between variance in the spatial structure of species pairs and topographic heterogeneity across sites. We interpret this pattern as evidence of pervasive niche differentiation, which increases in importance with increasing environmental heterogeneity.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1098/rspb.2013.0502
CEH Sections: Watt
ISSN: 0962-8452
Additional Keywords: species coexistence, tropical forest, niche differentiation, neutral theory, spatial pattern, cross-pair overlap distribution
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 13 Mar 2014 10:00 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/505680

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