Trait-mediated environmental filtering drives assembly at biogeographic transition zones

Sommer, Brigitte, Harrison, Peter L., Beger, Maria and Pandolfi, John M. (2014) Trait-mediated environmental filtering drives assembly at biogeographic transition zones. Ecology, 95 4: 1000-1009. doi:10.1890/13-1445.1

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Author Sommer, Brigitte
Harrison, Peter L.
Beger, Maria
Pandolfi, John M.
Title Trait-mediated environmental filtering drives assembly at biogeographic transition zones
Journal name Ecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0012-9658
Publication date 2014-04-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1890/13-1445.1
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 95
Issue 4
Start page 1000
End page 1009
Total pages 10
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Language eng
Abstract Abiotic filtering is a major driver of gradients in the structure and functioning of ecosystems from the tropics to the poles. It is thus likely that environmental filtering is an important assembly process at the transition of biogeographical zones where many species occur at their range limits. Shifts in species abundances and association patterns along environmental gradients can be indicative of environmental filtering, which is predicted to be stronger in areas of high abiotic stress and to promote increased similarity of ecological characteristics among co-occurring species. Here we test these hypotheses for scleractinian corals along a broad latitudinal gradient in high-latitude eastern Australia, where corals occur at the margins of their ranges and environmental tolerances. We quantify variation in taxonomic, zoogeographic, and functional patterns combined with null model approaches and demonstrate systematic spatial variation in community structure and significant covariance of species abundance distributions and functional characteristics along the latitudinal gradient. We describe a strong biogeographic transition zone, consistent with patterns expected under abiotic filtering, whereby species are sorted along the latitudinal gradient according to their tolerances for marginal reef conditions. High-latitude coastal reefs are typified by widely distributed, generalist, stress-tolerant coral species with massive and horizontally spreading morphologies and by diminishing influence of tropical taxa at higher latitudes and closer to the mainland. Higher degree of ecological similarity among co-occurring species than expected by chance supports the environmental filtering hypothesis. Among individual traits, the structural traits corallite size and colony morphology were filtered most strongly, suggesting that characteristics linked to energy acquisition and physical stability may be particularly important for coral survival in high-latitude environments. These findings highlight interspecific differences and species interactions with the environment as key drivers of community organization in biogeographic transition zones and support the hypothesis that environmental filters play a stronger role than biotic interactions in structuring ecological communities in areas of high abiotic stress.
Keyword Latitudinal gradient
Environmental filtering
Community assembly
High-latitude reefs
Functional traits
Life-history strategy
Scleractinian corals
Range limit
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Grant ID LP0774850
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Biological Sciences Publications
Version Filter Type
Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 38 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 41 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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