A predictive model of community assembly that incorporates intraspecific trait variation

Daniel C. Laughlin, Chaitanya Joshi, Peter M. van Bodegom, Zachary A. Bastow, Peter Z. Fulé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

132 Scopus citations


Community assembly involves two antagonistic processes that select functional traits in opposite directions. Environmental filtering tends to increase the functional similarity of species within communities leading to trait convergence, whereas competition tends to limit the functional similarity of species within communities leading to trait divergence. Here, we introduce a new hierarchical Bayesian model that incorporates intraspecific trait variation into a predictive framework to unify classic coexistence theory and evolutionary biology with recent trait-based approaches. Model predictions exhibited a significant positive correlation (r = 0.66) with observed relative abundances along a 10 °C gradient in mean annual temperature. The model predicted the correct dominant species in half of the plots, and accurately reproduced species' temperature optimums. The framework is generalizable to any ecosystem as it can accommodate any species pool, any set of functional traits and multiple environmental gradients, and it eliminates some of the criticisms associated with recent trait-based community assembly models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1291-1299
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012



  • Assembly rules
  • Bark thickness
  • Environmental filtering
  • Hierarchical Bayesian model
  • Limiting similarity
  • Maximum entropy
  • Specific leaf area
  • Trait convergence
  • Trait divergence
  • Wood density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this