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  1. The phylogenetic distance between species often predicts differences in ecologically important traits. The phylogenetic diversity and structure of biological communities can inform our understanding of the processes that shape those communities, and there is a well-developed framework for comparing phylogenetic structures of communities. However, particularly in studies of phylogenetic distances from one focal species to other members of its assemblage (a one-to-many framework), the standard metrics of community-wide studies encounter significant limitations due to the left-skewed distribution of pairwise phylogenetic distances in most biological communities. For studies that require estimating the degree of phylogenetic isolation of a focal taxon, the mean phylogenetic distance (MPD) usually provides little power to distinguish among taxa because it is heavily weighted by the many ways to be distantly related, whereas the nearest taxon distance (NTD) is highly idiosyncratic and ignores cases where multiple close relatives may contribute equally strongly to influence the focal species. Here we highlight the value of examining the cumulative distribution of phylogenetic distances in studies that take a focal-species approach. We describe and discuss the benefits of two new metrics. An integrated metric of phylogenetic distances (AUPhyDC) uses information from the whole cumulative distribution, whereas the tenth quantile (PD10) is an extremely simple metric that improves on NTD by capturing the influence of multiple close relatives on ecological interactions. Several recent examples found that PD10 did a better job of revealing ecological patterns than NTD or MPD. We provide R code to facilitate the use of these approaches and advocate for the inclusion of PD10 along with NTD and MPD in statistical packages for phylogenetic ecology. 
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  2. Abstract

    Numerous studies have shown reduced performance in plants that are surrounded by neighbours of the same species1,2, a phenomenon known as conspecific negative density dependence (CNDD)3. A long-held ecological hypothesis posits that CNDD is more pronounced in tropical than in temperate forests4,5, which increases community stabilization, species coexistence and the diversity of local tree species6,7. Previous analyses supporting such a latitudinal gradient in CNDD8,9have suffered from methodological limitations related to the use of static data10–12. Here we present a comprehensive assessment of latitudinal CNDD patterns using dynamic mortality data to estimate species-site-specific CNDD across 23 sites. Averaged across species, we found that stabilizing CNDD was present at all except one site, but that average stabilizing CNDD was not stronger toward the tropics. However, in tropical tree communities, rare and intermediate abundant species experienced stronger stabilizing CNDD than did common species. This pattern was absent in temperate forests, which suggests that CNDD influences species abundances more strongly in tropical forests than it does in temperate ones13. We also found that interspecific variation in CNDD, which might attenuate its stabilizing effect on species diversity14,15, was high but not significantly different across latitudes. Although the consequences of these patterns for latitudinal diversity gradients are difficult to evaluate, we speculate that a more effective regulation of population abundances could translate into greater stabilization of tropical tree communities and thus contribute to the high local diversity of tropical forests.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 21, 2025
  3. Abstract

    One mechanism proposed to explain high species diversity in tropical systems is strong negative conspecific density dependence (CDD), which reduces recruitment of juveniles in proximity to conspecific adult plants. Although evidence shows that plant-specific soil pathogens can drive negative CDD, trees also form key mutualisms with mycorrhizal fungi, which may counteract these effects. Across 43 large-scale forest plots worldwide, we tested whether ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibit weaker negative CDD than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. We further tested for conmycorrhizal density dependence (CMDD) to test for benefit from shared mutualists. We found that the strength of CDD varies systematically with mycorrhizal type, with ectomycorrhizal tree species exhibiting higher sapling densities with increasing adult densities than arbuscular mycorrhizal tree species. Moreover, we found evidence of positive CMDD for tree species of both mycorrhizal types. Collectively, these findings indicate that mycorrhizal interactions likely play a foundational role in global forest diversity patterns and structure.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  4. null (Ed.)
  5. Blonder, Benjamin (Ed.)
  6. Tree fecundity and recruitment have not yet been quantified at scales needed to anticipate biogeographic shifts in response to climate change. By separating their responses, this study shows coherence across species and communities, offering the strongest support to date that migration is in progress with regional limitations on rates. The southeastern continent emerges as a fecundity hotspot, but it is situated south of population centers where high seed production could contribute to poleward population spread. By contrast, seedling success is highest in the West and North, serving to partially offset limited seed production near poleward frontiers. The evidence of fecundity and recruitment control on tree migration can inform conservation planning for the expected long-term disequilibrium between climate and forest distribution. 
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  7. Abstract The relationships that control seed production in trees are fundamental to understanding the evolution of forest species and their capacity to recover from increasing losses to drought, fire, and harvest. A synthesis of fecundity data from 714 species worldwide allowed us to examine hypotheses that are central to quantifying reproduction, a foundation for assessing fitness in forest trees. Four major findings emerged. First, seed production is not constrained by a strict trade-off between seed size and numbers. Instead, seed numbers vary over ten orders of magnitude, with species that invest in large seeds producing more seeds than expected from the 1:1 trade-off. Second, gymnosperms have lower seed production than angiosperms, potentially due to their extra investments in protective woody cones. Third, nutrient-demanding species, indicated by high foliar phosphorus concentrations, have low seed production. Finally, sensitivity of individual species to soil fertility varies widely, limiting the response of community seed production to fertility gradients. In combination, these findings can inform models of forest response that need to incorporate reproductive potential. 
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