Habitat endemism in white-sand forests: insights into the mechanisms of lineage diversification and community assembly of the neotropical flora

Abstract : White-sand forests represent natural laboratories of evolution over their long history throughout Amazonia and the Guiana Shield and pose significant physiological challenges to the plants and animals they host. The study of diversification in plant lineages comprising species endemic to white-sand forest can therefore give insights into processes of evolution and community assembly in tropical forests. In this article, we synthesize recent studies of white-sand forests to integrate patterns of plant species distribution with processes of lineage diversification and community assembly in the white-sand flora. We contrast lineages that have radiated uniquely in these habitats (e.g., Pagamea, Rubiaceae), with cosmopolitan lineages comprising specialists to white-sand forests and other habitats that may have arisen via ecological speciation across habitat gradients (e.g., Protium, Burseraceae). In both cases, similar suites of functional traits have evolved, including investment in dense, long-lived tissues that are well-defended structurally and chemically. White-sand endemics, therefore, play an important role in biodiversity conservation because they represent unique combinations of functional and phylogenetic diversity. Furthermore, white-sand endemics may respond differently than other tropical forest plant species to contemporary global changes because they comprise resilient functional types that may better withstand increased drought, temperature, and invasions of exotic pests in these regions.
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Paul V. A. Fine, Christopher Baraloto. Habitat endemism in white-sand forests: insights into the mechanisms of lineage diversification and community assembly of the neotropical flora. Biotropica, Wiley, 2016, 48 (1), pp.24-33. ⟨10.1111/btp.12301⟩. ⟨hal-01531635⟩

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