This review suggests that the ecology and patchy global distribution of seasonally dry tropical forest (SDTF) has distinctively structured the evolutionary history and biogeography of woody plant groups that are confined to it. SDTFs have few widespread woody plant species causing high β-diversity between separate areas of forests. These separate areas contain geologically old, monophyletic clades of endemic plant species that often have geographically structured intraspecific genetic variation. These patterns of diversity, endemism, and phylogeny indicate a stable, dispersal-limited SDTF system. SDTF species tend to belong to larger clades confined to this vegetation, exemplifying phylogenetic niche conservatism, and we argue that this is evidence that the SDTF is a metacommunity (biome) for woody plant clades. That phylogenetic, population genetic, biogeographic, and community ecological patterns differ in woody plants from tropical rain forests and savannas suggests a hypothesis that broad ecological settings strongly influence plant diversification in the tropics.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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