Range shifting species reduce phylogenetic diversity in high latitude communities via competition

Robert N.L. Fitt* (Corresponding Author), Lesley T. Lancaster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Under anthropogenic climate change, many species are expanding their ranges to higher latitudes and altitudes, resulting in novel species interactions. The consequences of these range shifts for native species, patterns of local biodiversity, and community structure in high latitude ecosystems are largely unknown but critical to understand in light of widespread poleward expansions by many warm-adapted generalists.
Using niche modelling, phylogenetic methods, and field and laboratory studies, we investigated how colonisation of Scotland by a range expanding damselfly, Ischnura elegans, influences patterns of competition and niche shifts in native damselfly species, and changes in phylogenetic community structure.
Colonization by I. elegans was associated with reduced population density and niche shifts in the resident species least related to I. elegans (Lestes sponsa), reflecting enhanced competition. Furthermore, communities colonized by I. elegans exhibited phylogenetic underdispersion, reflecting patterns of relatedness and competition.
Our results provide a novel example of a potentially general mechanism whereby climate change-mediated range shifts can reduce phylogenetic diversity within high latitude communities, if colonising species are typically competitively superior to members of native communities that are least-closely-related to the coloniser.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-555
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date6 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank Heather Bodie and Debbie Young for assistance in the field, and local landowners for permissions to study and sample damselflies on their land. Brad Duthie provided helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. The project was supported by a NERC DTP fellowship to R.N.L.F. and a start-up grant to L.T.L. provided by the University of Aberdeen.

Data accessibility
All data used in this study have been deposited in Dryad Digital Repository: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.kp89j (Fitt & Lancaster 2017).


  • climate change
  • range shifts
  • competition
  • community assembly
  • damselflies
  • odonata
  • coexistence
  • non-analog communities
  • thermal niche


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