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Data from: The role of transcriptomes linked with responses to light environment on seedling mortality in a subtropical forest, China

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Han, Baocai et al. (2017). Data from: The role of transcriptomes linked with responses to light environment on seedling mortality in a subtropical forest, China [Dataset]. Dryad.


Differences in seedling survival in trees have a lasting imprint on seedling, juvenile and adult community structure. Identifying the drivers of these differences, therefore, is a critical research objective that ultimately requires knowledge regarding how organismal function interacts with the local environment to influence survival rates. In tree communities, differences in light use strategies are frequently invoked to explain differences in seedling demographic performance through growth and survival trade-offs. For example, shade-tolerant species grow slowly and have higher survival rates, whereas shade-intolerant species grow quickly but have lower survival rates. Thus, functional traits related to photosynthesis should be strong predictors of demographic rates, but results in the literature are mixed indicating that additional or alternative information regarding organismal function should be considered. Here, we provide a community-wide inventory of transcriptomes in a subtropical tree community. This information is utilized to determine the degree to which species share homologous genes related to gene ontologies for light use and harvesting. These species similarities are used in neighbourhood generalized linear mixed-effects models of seedling survival that evaluated seedling survival as a function of the transcriptomic, functional trait and phylogenetic composition of the local neighbourhood. The results show neighbourhood similarity in three of the 15 gene ontologies evaluated are significantly related to survival rates based on neighbourhood composition. For two of these ontologies, survival rates increase when neighbours are similar in their gene tree composition indicating the importance of abiotic filtering and performance hierarchies. Synthesis. The present work takes a novel approach by sequencing the transcriptomes of naturally co-occurring tree species in a subtropical forest in China. The results show that the transcriptomic similarity of species is a significant predictor of differential survival. The study demonstrates that exploring the functional genomic similarity of non-model species in nature has the potential to increase the breadth and depth of our understanding of how gene function influences species co-occurrence and population dynamics in communities.

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