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Background: Factors determining coexistence of the species have been recognized out since Darwin, but empirical studies have brought the relationship between niche similarity and competition into question. Knowing the mechanisms of coexistence makes it possible to predict biological invasions and determine better species combinations for the restoration and recovery of degraded areas. This study aimed to test the competition-relatedness hypothesis for semiarid tree species. Thus, an experiment was carried out with a phylogenetic gradient of tree species, planted in pairs. The phylogenetically closest pair consisted of congeneric species of the same clade, the intermediate pair comprised congeneric species of distinct clades, and the more distant pair were species of the same family.
Results: Our results show that the phylogenetically closest and the more distant pairs corroborated the competition-relatedness hypothesis, but the presence of one species with high competitive ability in the intermediate pair caused an unexpected pattern.
Conclusion: Niche differences are important for coexistence, but it is necessary to know the competitive ability of each species and the specific associations that are more productive to improve the efficiency of restoration programs and to reveal the degree of aggressiveness in the case of invasive species.
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