Measuring the effects on environmental conditions on biodiversity

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Sunday, 2 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Mara A. Freilich, Brown University, Providence, RI; and S. Connolly

In order to anticipate the likely effects of climate change and other anthropogenic changes on biodiversity, it is important to understand the processes that determine the abundance and coexistence of species. These processes depend on ecological similarity of species, which are often correlated to relatedness. Phylogenetic relatedness can be easier to quantify than other measures of ecological similarity, especially in high biodiversity environments. Phylogenetic patterns, called phylogenetic community structure, can be measured and ecological processes can be inferred. In this study, we simulate communities that closely match the assumptions implicit in the development of metrics of phylogenetic community structure using mechanistic models. In our communities, species abundances depend on biotic and environmental forces. Our results provide guidance for the design of empirical experiments, including recommendations about sample size, and interpretation of results. We also distinguish between the effects detected by different measures of diversity and the effects of incorporating abundance of species in addition to presence and absence of species. With close resemblance between ecological and phylogenetic similarity, the metrics are biased towards detecting biotic interactions as dominant, but the metrics are biased towards detecting environmental forces when there is a weak resemblance between ecological and phylogenetic similarity. These results will help guide studies seeking to understand the driving forces behind environmental change.