Decoupled phylogenetic and functional diversity in European grasslands

Martin Večeřa 1 , Irena Axmanová 1 , Milan Chytrý 1 , Jan Divíšek 1 2 , Charlotte Ndiribe 1 3 , Gonzalo Velasco Mones 1 , Natálie Čeplová 1 4 , Svetlana Aćić 5 , Michael Bahn 6 , Ariel Bergamini 7 , Gerhard Boenisch 8 , Idoia Biurrun 9 , Hans Henrik Bruun 10 , Chaeho Byun 11 , Jane A. Catford 12 , Bruno E. L. Cerabolini 13 , Johannes H. C. Cornelissen 14 , Jürgen Dengler 15 16 17 , Florian Jansen 18 , Steven Jansen 19 , Jens Kattge 8 17 , Łukasz Kozub 20 , Anna Kuzemko 21 , Vanessa Minden 22 , Rachel M. Mitchell 23 , Jesper Erenskjold Moeslund 24 , Akira S. Mori 25 , Ülo Niinemets 26 , Eszter Ruprecht 27 , Solvita Rūsiņa 28 , Urban Šilc 28 , Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia 30 , Peter M. van Bodegom 31 , Kiril Vassilev 32 , Evan Weiher 33 , Ian J. Wright 34 35 & Zdeňka Lososová 1


  1. Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, CZ-61137 Brno, Czech Republic
  2. Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, CZ-61137 Brno, Czech Republic
  3. Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, University of Lagos, Tafawa Balewa Way, NG-101245 Lagos, Nigeria
  4. Department of Biology, Faculty of Education, Masaryk University, Poříčí 7, CZ-60300 Brno, Czech Republic
  5. Department of Botany, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Belgrade, Nemanjina 6, RS-11000 Belgrade-Zemun, Serbia
  6. Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck, Sternwartestrasse 15, AT-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
  7. WSL Swiss Federal Research Institute, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  8. Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Hans-Knöll-Strasse 10, DE-07745 Jena, Germany
  9. Department of Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Barrio Sarriena s/n, ES-48940 Leioa, Bilbao, Spain
  10. Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, Ole Maalřes Vej 5, DK-2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
  11. Department of Biological Sciences, Andong National University, Gyeongdong-ro, KR-1375 Songcheon-dong, Andong, Korea
  12. Department of Geography, King’s College London, Strand UK-WC2R 2LS London, United Kingdom
  13. Department of Biotechnologies and Life Sciences, University of Insubria, Via J. H. Dunant 3, IT-21100 Varese, Italy
  14. Systems Ecology, Department of Ecological Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, NL-1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  15. Vegetation Ecology, Institute of Natural Resource Sciences (IUNR), Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), Grüentalstrasse 14, CH-8820 Wädenswil, Switzerland
  16. Plant Ecology, Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research (BayCEER), University of Bayreuth, Dr. Hans-Frisch-Strasse 1-3, DE-95448 Bayreuth, Germany
  17. German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Puschstrasse 4, DE-04103 Leipzig, Germany
  18. Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Rostock, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, DE-18059 Rostock, Germany
  19. Institute of Botany, Ulm University, Albert-Einstein-Allee 11, DE-89081 Ulm, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  20. Department of Ecology and Environmental Conservation, Institute of Environmental Biology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw, Ilji Miecznikowa 1, PL-02096 Warsaw, Poland
  21. M. G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Tereshchenkivska 2, UA-01601 Kyiv, Ukraine
  22. Department of Biology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, BE-1050 Elsene, Brussels, Belgium
  23. School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Arizona, E. Lowell Street 1064, AZ-85721 Tucson, USA
  24. Department of Ecoscience, Faculty of Technical Sciences, Aarhus University, C. F. Møllers Allé 6-8, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
  25. Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, 153-8904 Tokyo, Japan
  26. Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Kreutzwaldi 1, EE-51006 Tartu, Estonia
  27. Hungarian Department of Biology and Ecology, Babeş-Bolyai University, Strada Republicii 44, RO-400000 Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  28. Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of Latvia, Jelgavas iela 1, LV-1004 Riga, Latvia
  29. Institute of Biology, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Novi trg 2, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
  30. Centre for Environmental Sciences, Hasselt Univeristy, Martelarenlaan 42, BE-3500 Hasselt, Belgium
  31. Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University, Rapenburg 70, NL-2311 EZ Leiden, the Netherlands
  32. Department of Plant and Fungal Diversity and Resources, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Gagarin Street 2, BG-1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
  33. Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, Roosevelt Avenue 101, WI-54701 Eau Claire, USA
  34. Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, NSW-2753 Richmond, Australia
  35. School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW-2109 Sydney, Australia

Published: 21 December 2023 ,

PDF Appendices


The relationship between phylogenetic diversity (PD) and functional diversity (FD) is important for understanding the mechanisms of community assembly. The traditional view assumes a coupled (positively correlated) relationship between these two diversity measures, suggesting that competitive exclusion and environmental filtering are important drivers of both phylogenetic and functional structure of communities. In contrast, there is evidence that communities might deviate from this pattern, exhibiting either phylogenetic overdispersion connected with trait convergence (decoupled PD) or functional overdispersion connected with phylogenetic clustering (decoupled FD). In this study, we examined the relationship between PD and FD within vascular-plant communities in European grasslands, focusing on decoupled PD-FD patterns. We hypothesized that the decoupled patterns are connected with past or current environmental changes and are rarer in comparison with the coupled PD-FD pattern, reflecting long-term relatively stable environments. We used 81,484 plots (communities) of European dry, mesic, wet and alpine grasslands, containing 4,119 angiosperm species, and data on six functional traits relevant for different plant functions and habitats (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content, seed mass and lateral spreading distance). Functional diversity was evaluated in two ways – as a single combined measure and as variability in each trait separately. We found various PD-FD patterns across different habitats, traits and regions, with the coupled pattern widespread but not universal. In many communities, we detected the tendency towards decoupled PD, likely caused by environmental filtering of phylogenetically diverse species pools. This was most pronounced in dry grasslands, and also in wet and alpine grasslands when FD based on plant height, leaf area or seed mass was considered. In contrast, the tendency towards decoupled FD was detected only in mesic and wet grasslands for leaf nitrogen content and lateral spreading distance, possibly due to competitive interactions among species interplaying with land-use history. Decoupled PD is relatively common in European grasslands, especially in mountainous and hilly areas of central and southern Europe and in parts of western Europe with a mild climate. This likely results from refugial effects that have preserved many distinct phylogenetic lineages, but their species are functionally similar due to environmental filters that affect the assembly of present-day grassland communities. We demonstrate that PD and FD may reflect different aspects of community structure and assembly mechanisms, and suggest that the phenomenon of decoupled PD and FD deserves more systematic study.


angiosperms, biogeographic history, community assembly, Europe, functional diversity, functional trait, grassland, non-equilibrium process, phylogenetic diversity

How to cite

Večeřa M., Axmanová I., Chytrý M., Divíšek J., Ndiribe C., Velasco Mones G., Čeplová N., Aćić S., Bahn M., Bergamini A., Boenisch G., Biurrun I., Bruun H. H., Byun C., Catford J. A., Cerabolini B. E. L., Cornelissen J. H. C., Dengler J., Jansen F., Jansen S., Kattge J., Kozub Ł., Kuzemko A., Minden V., Mitchell R. M., Moeslund J. E., Mori A. S., Niinemets Ü., Ruprecht E., Rūsiņa S., Šilc H., Soudzilovskaia N. A., van Bodegom P. M., Vassilev K., Weiher E., Wright I. J. & Lososová Z. (2023) Decoupled phylogenetic and functional diversity in European grasslands. – Preslia 95: 413445,