Phylogeny, niches, and relative abundance in natural communities.
Kelly CK., Bowler MG., Pybus O., Harvey PH.
Community structure refers to the number of species in a community and the pattern of distribution of individuals among those species. We use a novel way of representing community structure to show that abundance within closely related pairs of co-occurring tree species in a highly diverse Mexican forest is more equitable than is abundance within more distantly related pairs. This observation is at odds with the fundamental assumption of neutral models of community structure, i.e., that species are interchangeable. The observed patterns suggest niche apportionment, in which interaction is focused pairwise between congeners but falls away from the phylogenetic structure above the genus level. Thus niche processes may significantly affect community structure through regulating relative abundance in a substantial proportion of species, which in turn potentially enhances community stability. One such mechanism of stable coexistence has already been shown to be active in this forest.