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Sources of variation in foliar secondary chemistry in a tropical forest tree community

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Sedio, Brian E Boya P., Cristopher A Rojas Echeverri, Juan C Wright, S. Joseph


Specialist herbivores and pathogens could induce negative conspecific density dependence among their hosts and thereby contribute to the diversity of plant communities. A small number of hyperdiverse genera comprise a large portion of tree diversity in tropical forests. These closely related congeners are likely to share natural enemies. Diverse defenses could still allow congeners to partition niche space defined by natural enemies, but interspecific differences in defenses would have to exceed intraspecific variation in defenses. We ask whether interspecific variation in secondary chemistry exceeds intraspecific variation for species from four hyperdiverse tropical tree genera. We used novel methods to quantify chemical structural similarity for all compounds present in methanol extracts of leaf tissue. We sought to maximize intraspecific variation by selecting conspecific leaves from different ontogenetic stages (expanding immature vs. fully hardened mature), different light environments (deep understory shade vs. large forest gaps), and different seasons (dry vs. wet). Chemical structural similarity differed with ontogeny, light environment, and season, but interspecific differences including those among congeneric species were much larger. Our results suggest that species differences in secondary chemistry are large relative to within-species variation, perhaps sufficiently large to permit niche segregation among congeneric tree species based on chemical defenses.10.1002/ecy.1689Sedio, Brian E., Rojas Echeverri, Juan C., Boya P., Cristopher A. and Wright, S. Joseph. 2017. Sources of variation in foliar secondary chemistry in a tropical forest tree community. Ecology, 98(3): 616-623. doi:10.1002/ecy.1689

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