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Abstract Detail

Ecological Section

Goud, Ellie [1], Sparks, Jed [1].

Evolutionary constraints on adaptation under global change.

Background & Methodology: In the face of global change, plants can potentially change their distribution, adapt in place or become extinct. The likelihood of moving or adapting may largely depend on niche flexibility. Ecological niches were traditionally regarded as labile and niche shifts were assumed to be an important response to environmental change. However, recent phylogenetic studies have revealed that many lineages of closely related species have maintained ecological and phenotypic similarities through evolutionary time, a pattern called phylogenetic niche conservatism. In order to assess if habitats across North America are phylogenetically conserved or labile, we compared evolutionary relationships, habitats and functional traits important for water use among species in the heath family (Ericaceae). Ericaceae is a large and morphologically diverse group that is widespread in the temperate and tropical zones of most continents. In North America, a large variety of Ericaceae species are found in ecosystems spanning sand dunes, alpine summits, mesic forests, acidic peatlands and open tundra. We constructed a phylogeny using maximum likelihood analyses for combined matK, nrITS and rbcL gene regions from 107 species that span the range of ecological and morphological diversity within the North American Ericaceae. We obtained trait data for leaf size, leaf surface characteristics and seed size from the Flora of North America. We expected that dry and wet habitats and their accompanying traits would be phylogenetically conserved but mesic habitats would be phylogenetically labile.
Results: Species from wet habitats were more closely related than expected by chance and species from dry and mesic habitats were less related than expected by chance. Contrary to our expectations, traits were similar between wet and dry habitats, with the majority of these species having smaller, evergreen leaves and larger seeds. Our results indicate that wet habitats may be phylogenetically conserved in North American Ericaceae species while dry and mesic habitats may be more labile.

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1 - Cornell University, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, 215 Tower Road, Ithaca, NY, 14853, United States

niche conservatism
plant functional trait
global change.

Presentation Type: Poster:Posters for Sections
Session: P
Location: Hall D/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Monday, July 27th, 2015
Time: 5:30 PM
Number: PEC023
Abstract ID:1212
Candidate for Awards:Ecological Section Best Graduate Student Poster

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