Biodiv Sci ›› 2011, Vol. 19 ›› Issue (3): 284-294.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2011.11250

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Plant DNA barcodes promote the development of phylogenetic commu- nity ecology

Nancai Pei1,3,*(), Jinlong Zhang2,3, Xiangcheng Mi2, Xuejun Ge1   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Plant Resource Conservation and Sustainable Utilization, South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510650
    2 State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093
    3 Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2010-10-14 Accepted:2011-03-08 Online:2011-05-20 Published:2013-12-10
  • Contact: Nancai Pei


There is a dynamic interplay between ecology and evolution within community ecology. Phylogenetic community ecology describes the intraspecific and interspecific relationships within a community, aiming to reveal the processes driving community assembly at multiple scales. Previous research has highlighted the role of phylogenetic and historical biogeographical data in explaining current patterns of global biodiversity. The success of using DNA barcoding in the construction of tropical forest community phylogenies highlights the usefulness and challenges of long-term research on community ecology and phylogenetics based on forest dynamic plots. In this paper, we illustrate the feasibility of a synthesis between community ecology and evolutionary biology in order to resolve particular ecological issues on community phylogenetic structure, community niche structure, biogeography, and trait evolution. We summarize progress on the development of a plant DNA barcoding system, and introduce the usage of a combination of DNA markers (rbcL+matK+trnH-psbA) for fast species discrimination and community phylogenetic reconstruction. We also explore the utilization of well-resolved phylogenies to understand community ecology. We discuss the limitations of core plant DNA barcodes (rbcL+matK) when identifying congeners, and propose an improved sequencing strategy suitable for studies at the community level. We expect that plant DNA barcodes will prove very useful for the study of species diversity, mechanisms of biodiversity maintenance, phylogenetic beta diversity and functional trait evolution.

Key words: community phylogenetic reconstruction, community ecology, rbcL,matK,trnH-psbA, large scale permanent plot, APG