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Data from: Phylogenetic structure and formation mechanism of shrub communities in arid and semi-arid areas of the Mongolian Plateau

Citation

Dong, Lei et al. (2020), Data from: Phylogenetic structure and formation mechanism of shrub communities in arid and semi-arid areas of the Mongolian Plateau, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6m905qfvv

Abstract

The mechanisms of species coexistence within a community have always been the focus in ecological research. Community phylogenetic structure reflects the relationship of historical processes, regional environments and interactions between species,  and studying it is imperative to understand the formation and maintenance mechanisms of community composition and biodiversity.

We studied the phylogenetic structure of the shrub communities in arid and semiarid areas of the Mongolian Plateau. First, the phylogenetic signals of four plant traits (height, canopy, leaf length and leaf width) of shrubs and subshrubs were measured to determine the phylogenetic conservation of these traits. Then the net relatedness index (NRI) of shrub communities was calculated to characterize their phylogenetic structure. Finally, the relationship between the NRI and current climate and paleoclimate (since the Last Glacial Maximum, LGM) factors was analyzed to understand the formation and maintenance mechanisms of these plant communities. We found that desert shrub communities showed a trend towards phylogenetic overdispersion, that is, limiting similarity was predominant in arid and semi-arid areas of the Mongolian Plateau despite the phylogenetic structure and formation mechanisms differing across habitats. The typical desert and sandy shrub communities showed a significant phylogenetic overdispersion, while the steppified desert shrub communities showed a weak phylogenetic clustering.  It was found that mean winter temperature (i.e. in the driest quarter) was the major factor limiting steppified desert shrub phylogeny distribution. Both cold and drought (despite having opposite consequences) differentiated the typical desert to steppified desert shrub communities. The increase in temperature since the LGM is conducive to the invasion of shrub plants into steppe grassland, and this process may be intensified by global warming.