Species associations of congeneric species in a tropical seasonal rainforest of China
In tropical plant communities with diverse species, many congeners are found to coexist. Do environment or biotic interactions structure the coexistence of congeners in tropical forest communities? In this paper, we aimed to disentangle the effect of environment (first-order effects) and species interactions (second-order effects) on the spatial distributions of tree species. We used a classification scheme and torus-translation to test the first-order interaction of 48 species from 17 genera in a fully mapped 20-ha dipterocarp tropical seasonal rain-forest plot in Xishuangbanna, south-west China. Then we used heterogeneous Poisson null models to reveal significant uni- and bivariate second-order interactions. The results demonstrated that (1) 34 of the 48 studied species showed a significant relation with at least one topographic variable. This confirmed that topographical heterogeneity is important for distribution of these congeners. Spatial segregation (36.6%) and partial overlap (34.8%) were the most common bivariate association types in Xishuangbanna plot, which indicated first-order effects (environment) were strong. (2) For small-scale associations, 51% saplings (1 to ≤ 5 cm) (68.8% for large trees with dbh > 5 cm) of the species showed non-significant associations. For large-scale associations, 61.6% saplings (81.2% for large trees) of the species showed non-significant associations. Lack of significant species interactions provides evidence for the unified neutral theory. In conclusion, both environment and biotic interactions structure congeneric species' coexistence in tropical seasonal rain forest in this region.