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Data from: Increasing phylogenetic stochasticity at high elevations on summits across a remote North American wilderness

Cite this dataset

Marx, Hannah E.; Richards, Melissa; Johnson, Grahm M.; Tank, David C. (2019). Data from: Increasing phylogenetic stochasticity at high elevations on summits across a remote North American wilderness [Dataset]. Dryad.


At the intersection of ecology and evolutionary biology, community phylogenetics can provide insights into overarching biodiversity patterns, particularly in remote and understudied ecosystems. To understand community assembly of the high-alpine flora of the Sawtooth National Forest, USA, we analyzed phylogenetic structure within and between nine summit communities. We used high-throughput sequencing to supplement existing data and infer a nearly completely sampled community phylogeny of the alpine vascular flora. We calculated mean nearest taxon distance (MNTD) and mean pairwise distance (MPD) to quantify phylogenetic divergence within summits, and assessed whether maximum elevation explains phylogenetic structure. To evaluate similarities between summits we quantified phylogenetic turnover, taking into consideration micro-habitats (talus vs. meadows). We found different patterns of community phylogenetic structure within the six most species-rich orders, but across all vascular plants phylogenetic structure was largely not different from random. There was a significant negative correlation between elevation and tree-wide phylogenetic diversity (MPD) within summits: overdispersion degraded as elevation increased. Between summits we found high phylogenetic turnover, which was driven by greater niche heterogeneity on summits with alpine meadows. This study provides further evidence that stochastic processes may also play an important role in the assembly of vascular plant communities in the high-alpine at regional scales. However, order-specific patterns suggest that adaptations are still important for assembly of specific sectors of the plant tree of life. Further studies quantifying functional diversity will be important to disentangle the interplay of eco-evolutionary processes that likely shape broad community phylogenetic patterns in extreme environments. Please be aware that if you ask to have your user record removed, we will retain your name in the records concerning manuscripts for which you were an author, reviewer, or editor. In compliance with data protection regulations, you may request that we remove your personal registration details at any time. (Use the following URL: Please contact the publication office if you have any questions.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: DGE-1144254