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Evidence for flower mediated assembly in spring ephemeral undersoty communities

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Title: Evidence for flower mediated assembly in spring ephemeral undersoty communities
Author: Weber, Stefan
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: Weber, Christina
Abstract: Plants with similar traits compete for resources. If related taxa share similar traits, phylogenetic relationships may predict competitive outcomes. Although plants compete for pollinators, flowers are rarely considered in community-assembly theory. I tested the hypothesis that plant communities are structured by competition for pollination. I inventoried communities at three spatial scales, measured seven flower traits, and tested the observed patterns against those generated by a null model to judge if community members were more or less similar in floral traits than expected by chance. I also measured the phylogenetic relatedness of community members to gauge trait-conservatism. Clustering of visually attractive traits suggests they promote facilitation of pollinators while over-dispersion of morphological traits suggests they partition pollinators in to avoid competition. Communities were phylogenetically even, but relatedness did not explain floral trait patterns. I suggest that flowers represent an ecological niche through which species can be sorted.
Date: 2011-08
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