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Data from: Trait-mediated community assembly: distinguishing the signatures of biotic and abiotic filters

Cite this dataset

Loughnan, Deirdre; Gilbert, Benjamin (2017). Data from: Trait-mediated community assembly: distinguishing the signatures of biotic and abiotic filters [Dataset]. Dryad.


Conflicting hypotheses predict how traits mediate species establishment and community assembly. Traits of newly establishing individuals are predicted to converge, or be more similar to the resident, preexisting community, when the biotic or abiotic environment favors a single best phenotype, but are predicted to diverge when trait differences reduce competitive interactions. We tested these competing hypotheses using transplant seedlings in an old-field environment, and assessed the contribution of inter- and intra-specific transplant trait variation to community-level patterns. Using a soil moisture gradient and resident plant removals, we determined when traits of newly-establishing plants converge or diverge from the resident community by calculating community weighted mean traits for transplant and resident communities. We saw evidence of environmentally- and competitively-driven trait shifts that resulted in both trait convergence and divergence from the resident community, whose traits reflect the combined effects of both drivers. Leaf dry matter content (LDMC) of transplants diverged in the presence of competition, whereas plant height and stem-specific density (SSD) showed the opposite pattern, converging with the resident community in their presence. Specific leaf area (SLA) shifted with competition but did not reflect resident community SLA. All transplant traits were influenced by soil moisture, often in an interaction with competition, indicating that the strength of convergence or divergence is contingent on the abiotic environment. Intraspecific differences in transplant traits among treatments were evident in three of four traits; intraspecific height and SLA trends mirrored transplant community-level trends, whereas intraspecific shifts in SSD were distinct from community-level trends. Our study shows competition between plant species may cause traits of newly establishing plants to converge with the resident community, as frequently as it selects for trait divergence. These opposing effects of competition suggest that it plays a pervasive role in both intraspecific and species-level trait differences among communities.

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Koffler Scientific Reserve
King Township