The role of plant secondary metabolites in shaping regional and local plant community assembly

María‐josé Endara, Abrianna J. Soule, Dale L. Forrister, Kyle G. Dexter, R. Toby Pennington, James A. Nicholls, Oriane Loiseau, Thomas A. Kursar, Phyllis D. Coley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. The outstanding diversity of Amazonian forests is predicted to be the result of several processes. While tree lineages have dispersed repeatedly across the Amazon, interactions between plants and insects may be the principal mechanism structuring the communities at local scales.

2. Using metabolomic and phylogenetic approaches, we investigated the patterns of historical assembly of plant communities across the Amazon based on the Neotropical genus of trees Inga (Leguminosae) at four, widely separated sites.

3. Our results show a low degree of phylogenetic structure and a mixing of chemotypes across the whole Amazon basin, suggesting that although biogeography may play a role, the metacommunity for any local community in the Amazon is the entire basin. Yet, local communities are assembled by ecological processes, with the suite of Inga at a given site more divergent in chemical defenses than expected by chance

4.Synthesis. This is the first study to present metabolomics data for nearly 100 species in a diverse Neotropical plant clade across the whole Amazonia. Our results demonstrate a role for plant‐herbivore interactions in shaping the clade’s community assembly at a local scale, and suggest that the high alpha diversity in Amazonian tree communities must be due in part to the interactions of diverse tree lineages with their natural enemies providing a high number of niche dimensions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
JournalJournal of Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date19 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


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