The Neutral Theory has generated great repercussion because it challenges the role of well-established processes in classical ecological theory. One of the bolder proposals of this new theory is that species are functionally similar, known as Functional Equivalence Hypothesis (FEH). In this hypothesis, species traits and their relationships with vital rates would not be able to explain the variation in species abundances that would occur randomly over time. Thus, if traits are able to explain changes in species abundances there is evidence that neutrality is not an exclusive explanation for the structure and diversity of a given community. Thus, this proposal aims to test the FEH by examining the effects of species traits and their interactions with the environment on the abundance and spatial distribution of tree species, using a database of tree communities from south and south-eastern of Brazil. We ask: Can the distribution of abundances in the community be explained by species traits? Is there an interaction between traits and environmental variables? Can the spatial distribution of species be explained by their traits? Do emerging groups (sensu Lavorel et al. 1997) have similar patterns of spatial distribution? These questions will be answered using generalized linear regression models that are very flexible and have great predictive power, allowing the combination of ecological, phylogenetic and spatial levels of information. Besides the generation of a unique database to test other scientific questions, the results of this proposal will help to understand the determinants of structure and diversity of ecological communities.
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