Mississippi State University
Ervin, Gary N.
Date of Degree
Graduate Thesis - Open Access
Master of Science
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences
Assembly is a process that shapes the abundance and identity of species in a community. Niche and neutral theory explain assembly processes with mechanisms driven by either species differences, or functional equivalence and stochastic dispersal. In 2017 I sampled vegetation and environmental variables at 59 sites in the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge and Tombigbee National Forest of Mississippi to explore forest understory community assembly. I developed and assessed a framework of predictions concerning general patterns and underlying mechanism. Evidence of dispersal limitation and functional equivalence were expected under neutral theory. Local environmental characteristics, surrounding landscape variables, and fire were significant determinants of beta diversity. Dispersal was not a strong predictor of beta diversity. I found evidence of both niche complementarity and functional equivalence, as well as niche differences among common vines and an introduced vine (Lonicera japonica). Overall, the results were more congruent with predictions expected under niche theory.
Mason, David Steven, "Beta Diversity Provides Evidence of Niche Based Assembly in Temperate Forest Understory Assemblages of Mississippi" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 870.