The phylogenetic structure of ecological communities under change
Darwin first noticed that closely-related species tend to be more similar, and that this brings them into more severe competition with one another. In my thesis, I use information on the phylogenetic relatedness of species to help understand the processes that structure ecological assemblages. I start with a review of how phylogenetic structure is useful to ecologists (chapter one), and the methodological tools available to study it (chapter two). I then re-analyse the Barro Colorado Island
... Colorado Island dataset, finding shifts in phylogenetic structure across extremely fine spatial and phylogenetic scales that previously used measures were unable to detect (chapter three). I outline a new tool that automatically generates phylogenies for ecologists, making use of online DNA sequence databases (chapter four). Using trait and phylogenetic data, I examine marine benthic invertebrate assemblages (chapter five), and characterise the structure of British birds and butterflies (chapter six). I then prioritise British plant conservation according to a new scheme that includes evolutionary distinctiveness, species threat and our degree of uncertainty about species threat (chapter seven), and conclude by considering future directions for the study of the phylogenetic structure of ecological communities (chapter eight).