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Kooyman R.M.,Macquarie University | Rossetto M.,National Herbarium of New South Wales NSW | Sauquet H.,University Paris - Sud | Laffan S.W.,University of New South Wales
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

Objectives: Identify patterns of change in species distributions, diversity, concentrations of evolutionary history, and assembly of Australian rainforests. Methods: We used the distribution records of all known rainforest woody species in Australia across their full continental extent. These were analysed using measures of species richness, phylogenetic diversity (PD), phylogenetic endemism (PE) and phylogenetic structure (net relatedness index; NRI). Phylogenetic structure was assessed using both continental and regional species pools. To test the influence of growth-form, freestanding and climbing plants were analysed independently, and in combination. Results: Species richness decreased along two generally orthogonal continental axes, corresponding with wet to seasonally dry and tropical to temperate habitats. The PE analyses identified four main areas of substantially restricted phylogenetic diversity, including parts of Cape York, Wet Tropics, Border Ranges, and Tasmania. The continental pool NRI results showed evenness (species less related than expected by chance) in groups of grid cells in coastally aligned areas of species rich tropical and sub-tropical rainforest, and in low diversity moist forest areas in the south-east of the Great Dividing Range and in Tasmania. Monsoon and drier vine forests, and moist forests inland from upland refugia showed phylogenetic clustering, reflecting lower diversity and more relatedness. Signals for evenness in Tasmania and clustering in northern monsoon forests weakened in analyses using regional species pools. For climbing plants, values for NRI by grid cell showed strong spatial structuring, with high diversity and PE concentrated in moist tropical and subtropical regions. Conclusions/ Significance: Concentrations of rainforest evolutionary history (phylo-diversity) were patchily distributed within a continuum of species distributions. Contrasting with previous concepts of rainforest community distribution, our findings of continuous distributions and continental connectivity have significant implications for interpreting rainforest evolutionary history and current day ecological processes, and for managing rainforest diversity in changing circumstances. Copyright: © 2013 Kooyman et al.

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