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Eco-evolutionary causes and consequences of rarity in plants: a meta-analysis

Cite this dataset

Boyd, Jennifer et al. (2022). Eco-evolutionary causes and consequences of rarity in plants: a meta-analysis [Dataset]. Dryad.


Species differ dramatically in their prevalence in the natural world, with many species characterized as rare due to restricted geographic distribution, low local abundance, and/or habitat specialization.

We investigated eco-evolutionary causes and consequences of rarity with phylogenetically-controlled meta-analyses of population genetic diversity, fitness, and functional traits in rare and common congeneric plant species. Our syntheses included 252 rare species and 267 common congeners reported in 153 peer-reviewed articles published from 1978-2020 and one manuscript in press.

Rare species have reduced population genetic diversity, depressed fitness, and smaller reproductive structures than common congeners. Rare species also could suffer from inbreeding depression and reduced fertilization efficiency.

By limiting their capacity to adapt and migrate, these characteristics could influence contemporary patterns of rarity and increase the susceptibility of rare species to rapid environmental change. We recommend that future studies present more nuanced data on the extent of rarity in focal species, expose rare and common species to ecologically-relevant treatments, including reciprocal transplants, and conduct quantitative genetic and population genomic analyses across a greater array of systems. This research could elucidate the processes that contribute to rarity and generate robust predictions of extinction risks under global change.


National Science Foundation, Award: 1655762

National Science Foundation, Award: 1553408

National Science Foundation, Award: 1655521

National Science Foundation, Award: 1655732