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Anthropogenic threats can have cascading homogenizing effects on the phylogenetic and functional diversity of tropical ecosystems

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Determining the mechanisms that underlie species distributions and assemblages is necessary to effectively preserve biodiversity. This cannot be accomplished by examining a single taxonomic group, as communities comprise a plethora of interactions across species and trophic levels. Here, we examine the patterns and relationships among plant, mammal, and bird diversity in Madagascar, a hotspot of biodiversity and endemism, across taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional axes. We found that plant community diversity and structure are shaped by geography and climate, and have significant influences on the taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity of mammals and birds. Patterns of primate diversity, in particular, were strongly correlated with patterns of plant diversity. Furthermore, our findings suggest that plant and animal communities could become more phylogenetically and functionally clustered in the future, leading to homogenization of the flora and fauna. These results underscore the importance and need of multi‐taxon approaches to conservation, given that even small threats to plant diversity can have significant cascading effects on mammalian and avian community diversity, structure, and function.
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Keywords: biodiversity; conservation; species interactions

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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