Andrew Letten

Andrew Letten


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Letten and Keith 2014 Phylogenetic and functional dissimilarity does not increase during temporal heathland succession

The compelling idea that closely related species should be less likely to coexist on account of their overlapping needs dates back to Darwin. It follows from Darwin's hypothesis that if species compete more intensely as communities mature, recently assembled communities (such as those emerging in the wake of a fire) will consist of closer relatives than older communities. Researchers from the Centre for Ecosystem Science tested this theory using a long-term dataset of community assembly in fire-prone heathland vegetation. Contrary to expectations, the relatedness of coexisting species tended to increase in the wake of fires, thus challenging this logical extention to one of ecology's oldest hypotheses.

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