Functional traits, particularly those that impact fitness, can shape the ecological and evolutionary relationships among coexisting species of the same trophic level. Thus, examining these traits and properties of their distributions (underdispersion, overdispersion) within communities can provide insights into key ecological interactions (e.g., competition, facilitation) involved in community assembly. For instance, the distribution of floral colors in a community may reflect pollinator-mediated interactions between sympatric plant species, and the phylogenetic distribution of color can inform how evolutionary contingencies can continue to shape extant community assemblages. Additionally, the abundance and species richness of the local habitat may influence the type or strength of ecological interactions among co-occurring species. To evaluate the impact of community size and species richness on mechanisms shaping the distribution of ecologically relevant traits, we examined how floral color (defined by pollinator color vision models) is distributed within co-flowering assemblages. We modeled floral reflectance spectra of 55 co-flowering species using honeybee (Apis mellifera) and syrphid fly (Eristalis tenax) visual systems to assess the distributions of flower color across 14 serpentine seep communities in California. We found that phylogenetic relatedness had little impact on the observed color assemblages. However, smaller seep communities with lower species richness were more overdispersed for flower color than larger, more species-rich communities. Results support that competitive exclusion could be a dominant process shaping the species richness of flower color in smaller-sized communities with lower species richness, but this is less detectable or overwhelmed by other processes at larger, more speciose communities.
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LeCroy, Kathryn A.; Arceo-Gómez, Gerardo; Koski, Matthew H.; Morehouse, Nathan I.; and Ashman, Tia L.. 2021. Floral Color Properties of Serpentine Seep Assemblages Depend on Community Size and Species Richness. Frontiers in Plant Science. Vol.11 https://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2020.602951