Although trait information has been widely used to explore underlying mechanisms of forest community structure, most studies have focused on local patterns of phylogenetic or functional alpha diversity. Investigations of functional beta diversity, on the other hand, have not been conducted at local scales in a spatially explicit way. In this study, we provide a powerful methodology based on recent advances in spatial point pattern analysis using fully mapped data of large and small trees in two large temperate forest plots. This approach allowed us to assess the relative importance of different ecological processes and mechanisms for explaining patterns of local phylogenetic and functional beta diversity. For both forests and size classes, we found a clear hierarchy of scales: habitat filtering accounted for patterns of phylogenetic and functional beta diversity at larger distances (150–250 m), dispersal limitation accounted for the observed decline in beta diversity at distances below 150 m, and species interactions explained small departures from functional and phylogenetic beta diversity at the immediate plant-neighborhood scale (below 20 m). Thus, both habitat filtering and dispersal limitation influenced the observed patterns in phylogenetic and functional beta diversity at local scales. This result contrasts with a previous study from the same forests, where dispersal limitation alone approximated the observed species beta diversity for distances up to 250 m. In addition, species interactions were relatively unimportant for predicting phylogenetic and functional beta diversity. Our analysis suggests that phylogenetic and functional beta diversity can provide insights into the mechanisms of local community assembly that are missed by studies focusing exclusively on species beta diversity.
Wang, X., Wiegand, T., Swenson, N. G., Wolf, A. T., Howe, R. W., Hao, Z., … Yuan, Z. (2015). Mechanisms underlying local functional and phylogenetic beta diversity in two temperate forests. Ecology, 96(4), 1062–1073. https://doi.org/10.1890/14-0392.1