Evolutionary heritage shapes tree distributions along an Amazon-to-Andes elevation gradient

Andy R. Griffiths, Miles R. Silman, William Farfan-Rios, Kenneth J. Feeley, Karina Garcia-Cabrera, Patrick Meir, Norma Salinas, Kyle G. Dexter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Understanding how evolutionary constraints shape the elevational distributions of tree lineages provides valuable insight into the future of tropical montane forests under global change. With narrow elevational ranges, high taxonomic turnover, frequent habitat specialization, and exceptional levels of endemism, tropical montane forests and trees are predicted to be highly sensitive to environmental change. Using plot census data from a gradient traversing > 3,000 m in elevation on the Amazonian flank of the Peruvian Andes, we employ phylogenetic approaches to assess the influence of evolutionary heritage on distribution trends of trees at the genus-level. We find that closely related lineages tend to occur at similar mean elevations, with sister genera pairs occurring a mean 254 m in elevation closer to each other than the mean elevational difference between non-sister genera pairs. We also demonstrate phylogenetic clustering both above and below 1,750 m a.s.l, corresponding roughly to the cloud-base ecotone. Belying these general trends, some lineages occur across many different elevations. However, these highly plastic lineages are not phylogenetically clustered. Overall, our findings suggest that tropical montane forests are home to unique tree lineage diversity, constrained by their evolutionary heritage and vulnerable to substantial losses under environmental changes, such as rising temperatures or an upward shift of the cloud-base.
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)38-50
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Cite this