We will use data generated by the Phylogeny/DNA Barcoding Subproject to examine the association of ecological traits with the phylogenetic tree. Our goals are to: a) identify which traits are phylogenetically conserved and which are labile; b) estimate how rates of trait diversification vary among different parts of the tree; and c) explore how traits covary across the tree. In other words, we are asking are rates and patterns of trait divergence among lineages independent over traits, or do traits covary in ways that could inform our understanding of evolutionary constraints or ecological trade-offs?
Since Felsenstein’s landmark paper (1985), biologists have been alert to the need to control for the effects of phylogeny when assessing ecological patterns. The presence of such signals in ecological patterns has led to a profusion of work to connect community ecology with studies of trait evolution (e.g., Ackerly and Donohue 1995, Webb 2000b, Webb et al. 2002, Cavender-Bares et al. 2004b, Ackerly et al. 2006b, Cavender-Bares et al. 2006, Novotny et al. 2006, Webb et al. 2006a, Kraft et al. 2007a, Cavender- Bares et al. 2009, Graham et al. 2009, Vamosi et al. 2009). Here, we are most interested in identifying patterns of trait variation and covariation and which traits are important in environmental filtering (Mayfield et al. 2009). Wright et al. (2005), for example, identified inter-correlations among several traits, allowing them to identify a 'leaf economics spectrum' relevant to how plants respond to climates.