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Plant Focus

Quercus skinneri
Quercus skinneri is a Central American oak, distinguished by the large size of its fruit.

Diversity, Distribution and Ecosystem Services of the North American Oaks

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Jeannine Cavender-Bares

Published May 2016 in International Oaks No. 27: 37–48.


The American oak clade provides an important system in which to test theory about the role of diversification and ecological filtering processes in community assembly at continental scale. Together with a number of long-standing collaborators1, we investigated the nature of functional trait evolution, environmental filtering and community assembly for the American oaks. We found evidence for inertia in the evolution of freezing tolerance, despite strong associations between freezing tolerances and climatic distribution, indicating that species are sorting across climatic gradients with a strong influence of ancestry, only slowly adapting to novel conditions. In contrast, plant water use and hydraulic traits are highly labile across the phylogeny, consistent with adaptive radiation into diverse hydrologic niches. Phylogenetic patterns of community composition are consistent with conserved climatic niches with in-situ divergence into contrasting local habitats.

1 B. Fallon, A. González-Rodríguez, A.L. Hipp, F. Hoerner, M. Kaproth, P.S. Manos, J. Meireles, J. McVay, and I. Pearse


parallel adaptive radiation, community assembly, biogeography


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