Benefits from living together? Clades whose species use similar habitats may persist as a result of eco-evolutionary feedbacks

Andreas Prinzing*, Wim A. Ozinga, Martin Brändle, Pierre Emmanuel Courty, Françoise Hennion, Conrad Labandeira, Christian Parisod, Mickael Pihain, Igor V. Bartish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


(Table presented.). Summary: Recent decades have seen declines of entire plant clades while other clades persist despite changing environments. We suggest that one reason why some clades persist is that species within these clades use similar habitats, because such similarity may increase the degree of co-occurrence of species within clades. Traditionally, co-occurrence among clade members has been suggested to be disadvantageous because of increased competition and enemy pressure. Here, we hypothesize that increased co-occurrence among clade members promotes mutualist exchange, niche expansion or hybridization, thereby helping species avoid population decline from environmental change. We review the literature and analyse published data for hundreds of plant clades (genera) within a well-studied region and find major differences in the degree to which species within clades occupy similar habitats. We tentatively show that, in clades for which species occupy similar habitats, species tend to exhibit increased co-occurrence, mutualism, niche expansion, and hybridization – and rarely decline. Consistently, throughout the geological past, clades whose species occupied similar habitats often persisted through long time-spans. Overall, for many plant species, the occupation of similar habitats among fellow clade members apparently reduced their vulnerability to environmental change. Future research should identify when and how this previously unrecognized eco-evolutionary feedback operates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-82
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • assembly of present and fossil communities
  • competition
  • conservation biology
  • enemy pressure and mutualism of coexisting species
  • evolution and conservatism
  • hybridization
  • niche breadth


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