Fish species introductions provide novel insights into the patterns and drivers of phylogenetic structure in freshwaters

Angela L. Strecker, Julian D. Olden

Abstract

Despite long-standing interest of terrestrial ecologists, freshwater ecosystems are a fertile, yet unappreciated, testing ground for applying community phylogenetics to uncover mechanisms of species assembly. We quantify phylogenetic clustering and overdispersion of native and non-native fishes of a large river basin in the American Southwest to test for the mechanisms (environmental filtering versus competitive exclusion) and spatial scales influencing community structure. Contrary to expectations, non-native species were phylogenetically clustered and related to natural environmental conditions, whereas native species were not phylogenetically structured, likely reflecting human-related changes to the basin. The species that are most invasive (in terms of ecological impacts) tended to be the most phylogenetically divergent from natives across watersheds, but not within watersheds, supporting the hypothesis that Darwin's naturalization conundrum is driven by the spatial scale. Phylogenetic distinctiveness may facilitate non-native establishment at regional scales, but environmental filtering restricts local membership to closely related species with physiological tolerances for current environments. By contrast, native species may have been phylogenetically clustered in historical times, but species loss from contemporary populations by anthropogenic activities has likely shaped the phylogenetic signal. Our study implies that fundamental mechanisms of community assembly have changed, with fundamental consequences for the biogeography of both native and non-native species.

  • Received November 21, 2013.
  • Accepted December 17, 2013.
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