Taxonomic scale-dependence of habitat niche partitioning and biotic neighbourhood on survival of tropical tree seedlings

Simon A. Queenborough, David Francis Robert Philip Burslem, Nancy C. Garwood, Renato Valencia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


In order to differentiate between mechanisms of species coexistence, we examined the relative importance of local biotic neighbourhood, abiotic habitat factors and species differences as factors influencing the survival of 2330 spatially mapped tropical tree seedlings of 15 species of Myristicaceae in two separate analyses in which individuals were identified first to species and then to genus. Using likelihood methods, we selected the most parsimonious candidate models as predictors of 3 year seedling survival in both sets of analyses. We found evidence for differential effects of abiotic niche and neighbourhood processes on individual survival between analyses at the genus and species levels. Niche partitioning ( defined as an interaction of taxonomic identity and abiotic neighbourhood) was significant in analyses at the genus level, but did not differentiate among species in models of individual seedling survival. By contrast, conspecific and congeneric seedling and adult density were retained in the minimum adequate models of seedling survival at species and genus levels, respectively. We conclude that abiotic niche effects express differences in seedling survival among genera but not among species, and that, within genera, community and/or local variation in adult and seedling abundance drives variation in seedling survival. These data suggest that different mechanisms of coexistence among tropical tree taxa may function at different taxonomic or phylogenetic scales. This perspective helps to reconcile perceived differences of importance in the various non-mutually exclusive mechanisms of species coexistence in hyper-diverse tropical forests.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4197-4205
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1676
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2009


  • diversity
  • logistic regression
  • lowland tropical rain forest
  • phylogeny
  • seedling survival
  • species coexistence
  • Bornean rain-forest
  • phylogenetic analysis
  • local neighborhood
  • neotropical forest
  • model selection
  • community
  • distributions
  • coexistence
  • myristicaceae
  • associations


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