Testing for functional convergence of temperate rainforest tree assemblages in Chile and New Zealand

C.H. Lusk, M. Jimenez-Castillo, R. Aragón, T.A. Easdale, L. Poorter, L.F. Hinojosa, N.W.H.W.H. Mason

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Abstract

An important tenet of biogeography and comparative ecology is that disjunct assemblages in similar physical environments are functionally more similar to each other than to assemblages from other environments. Temperate rainforests in South America, New Zealand and Australia share certain physiognomic similarities, but we are not aware of any statistical evidence that these disjunct plant assemblages share a distinctive suite of functional traits, or trait combinations. We compiled height, leaf, wood and reproductive traits from the 25 commonest arborescent species at Chilean and New Zealand sites matched for summer rainfall, summer maximum temperatures, and winter minimum temperatures. We then used multivariate tests of trait convergence. Tropical and subtropical assemblages served as out-groups. PERMANOVA showed convergence of trait centroids at the two temperate sites, where trees on average had denser wood and smaller leaves than trees at the (sub)tropical sites. Principal components analyses carried out separately on each assemblage showed that the Chilean and New Zealand assemblages were also the most similar pair in terms of trait relationships, although New Zealand also shared strong similarities with subtropical Argentina. The main axis of variation in both temperate assemblages ranged from small, short-lived understorey trees with soft leaves, to emergents with sclerophyllous leaves and fairly dense wood. However, the New Zealand assemblage was much richer in small trees with soft leaves than its Chilean counterpart; possible historical influences on this difference include conditions favouring radiation of small trees during the late Neogene in New Zealand, competition from Chusquea bamboos in Chile and the historical absence of browsing mammals from New Zealand. Environmental filtering has produced similar values of individual traits in Chile and New Zealand, but only partial convergence of functional trait combinations. As far as we know, this is the first study to statistically test whether disjunct tree assemblages on climatically matched sites are more functionally similar to each other than to assemblages from other environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-203
JournalNew Zealand Journal of Botany
Volume54
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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Keywords

  • Bioclimatic matching
  • environmental filtering
  • functional trait convergence
  • leaf dry matter content
  • leaf economics
  • leaf habit
  • leaf size
  • pollination syndrome
  • seed mass
  • wood density

Cite this

Lusk, C. H., Jimenez-Castillo, M., Aragón, R., Easdale, T. A., Poorter, L., Hinojosa, L. F., & Mason, N. W. H. W. H. (2016). Testing for functional convergence of temperate rainforest tree assemblages in Chile and New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 54(2), 175-203. https://doi.org/10.1080/0028825X.2016.1143019