to exhibit either random phylogenetic structure or phylogenetic over-dispersion. Surprisingly, our analyses indicated that plant communities also tended to become increasingly overdispersed at higher elevations (Fig. 7.2). Given niche conservatism, phylogenetic overdispersion is consistent with the importance of biotic forces (competitive exclusion or facilitation) structuring community diversity. Recent experimental evidence suggests that both of these forces are important drivers in alpine plant community assembly, with a shift from competition at lower elevations, where conditions are less physically stressful, to facilitation at higher elevations where abiotic stress is high (Callaway et al., 2002). Increased overdispersion at high elevations suggests that the influence of facilitation on high-elevation communities is stronger than the influence of competition at low elevations. An alternative explanation is that the evolution of traits necessary to cope with environmental conditions at high elevations has occurred independently in distantly related lineages (i.e., convergent evolution in high alpine plants) (Webb et al., 2002). This explanation goes against the assumption of phylogenetic niche conservatism.
We observed that both plant and bacterial compositional similarity significantly decreased with elevational distance (Fig. 7.3). Plant and bacterial communities differed, however, in their phylogenetic distance–decay patterns. The bacterial phylogenetic distance–decay curve was significantly steeper than expected from the observed bacterial taxa turnover alone (Fig. 7.3A). In contrast, the plant phylogenetic distance–decay curve was not significantly different from expected from the observed decay in plant compositional similarity. These results are consistent with those reported above for the NRI and NTI measures of community phylogenetic structure, indicating that bacteria lineages were not randomly distributed across the elevation gradient. Rather, bacterial lineages exhibited a spatially structured pattern across the gradient. Given the parsimonious hypothesis that closely related taxa are more ecologically (or functionally) similar, our observations suggest that bacterial lineages harbor increasingly disparate ecological features (or functions) at increased elevational distances as a probable consequence of abiotic filtering. These findings highlight the utility of gathering information on phylogenetic relationships between communities in montane regions as a means to quantify the potential consequences of selectively trimming evolutionary lineages under the scenario of mountaintop extinctions in response to global warming.
Although our study was not designed to directly examine the environmental drivers of elevational diversity patterns, our results do illuminate their potential role in shaping biodiversity patterns across the gradient. The contrasting phylogenetic diversity patterns we observed in plants and microbes suggest a differing role in how abiotic forces structure communities across the gradient. Soil temperature and pH were consis-