Meta-community phylogenetics and historical biogeography in Lifemapper


Jorge Soberon, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, KU Biodiversity Institute (

Pedro Peres-Neto, Biology, Concordia University

Jim Beach, Aimee Stewart , Jeff Cavner, KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum


Species sorting along environmental gradients, dispersal rates, patch size and isolation, evolutionary processes, and historical contingencies are all potential and important factors in explaining how species are distributed into local communities. But controlling for confounding effects and discerning the strength of interaction among these multiple processes is challenging. This workshop will focus on quantitative frameworks for testing and visualizing joint effects of biogeographic legacies and environmental affinities on the phylogenetic structure of large inter-clade communities using new statistical and computational approaches.

Lifemapper (Beach et al. 2015; is a modeling and analysis platform that in addition to calculating species niche models, performs on-demand multi-species modeling using Presence Absence Matrix (PAM) based range and diversity statistics. The workshop will introduce participants to the newest addition to the Lifemapper analysis services that expands on PAM based analyses to include spatial encodings of phylogenies for phylogeographic and community phylogenetic analysis and visualization. Participants will learn how to conduct analyses that link species distributions to patterns of environmental sorting and the legacy of historical biogeography in a new phylogenetic framework called Meta-Community Phylogenetics (MCPA).

MCPA quantifies the effects of phylogeny on the distribution of a large number of species using Generalized Linear Models (GLM) run and presented in a Lifemapper tool for QGIS, an open-source GIS, that integrates historical biogeography and phylogeny visualization. Participants will be able to identify links between species distributions and patterns of environmental sorting and the legacy of historical biogeography in a phylogenetic framework that shows the relationship between phylogenetic breaks and barriers to dispersal. The software package expands the ‘fourth corner’ method (Legendre et al. 1997) to include spatial encodings of phylogenies and biogeography, in addition to environmental predictors (Leibold et al. 2012). Participants will learn how to review the results of the analysis in linked data spaces in the QGIS Lifemapper plug-in which displays geographic maps, phylogenetic trees and correlation results simultaneously to reveal phylogenetic and geographic-based biogeographic discontinuities.


Beach, J.H., A.M. Stewart, C.J. Grady and J.A. Cavner. 2015. Lifemapper. [Computational services and software for species distribution modeling and biodiversity pattern analysis]. Web site:

Legendre, P., R. Galzin and M.L. Harmelin-Vivien. 1997. Relating behavior to habitat: Solutions to the fourth-corner problem. Ecology 78: 547-562.

Leibold, M.A., E.P. Economo and P.R. Peres-Neto. 2010. Metacommunity phylogenetics: separating the roles of environmental filters and historical biogeography. Ecology letters 13: 1290-1299.