Individual and interactive effects of chronic anthropogenic disturbance and rainfall on taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic composition and diversity of extrafloral nectary-bearing plants in Brazilian Caatinga

Xavier Arnan, Carlos H.F. Silva, Daniela Q.A. Reis, Fernanda M.P. Oliveira, Talita Câmara, Elâine M.S. Ribeiro, Alan N. Andersen, Inara R. Leal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Chronic anthropogenic disturbance (CAD) and climate change represent two of the major threats to biodiversity globally, but their combined effects are not well understood. Here we investigate the individual and interactive effects of increasing CAD and decreasing rainfall on the composition and taxonomic (TD), functional (FD) and phylogenetic diversity (PD) of plants possessing extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) in semi-arid Brazilian Caatinga. EFNs attract ants that protect plants against insect herbivore attack and are extremely prevalent in the Caatinga flora. EFN-bearing plants were censused along gradients of disturbance and rainfall in Catimbau National Park in north-eastern Brazil. We recorded a total of 2243 individuals belonging to 21 species. Taxonomic and functional composition varied along the rainfall gradient, but not along the disturbance gradient. There was a significant interaction between increasing disturbance and decreasing rainfall, with CAD leading to decreased TD, FD and PD in the most arid areas, and to increased TD, FD and PD in the wettest areas. We found a strong phylogenetic signal in the EFN traits we analysed, which explains the strong matching between patterns of FD and PD along the environmental gradients. The interactive effects of disturbance and rainfall revealed by our study indicate that the decreased rainfall forecast for Caatinga under climate change will increase the sensitivity of EFN-bearing plants to anthropogenic disturbance. This has important implications for the availability of a key food resource, which would likely have cascading effects on higher trophic levels.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages11
    JournalOecologia
    Early online dateNov 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 2021

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