One of the primary drivers of biodiversity loss is the loss and/or alteration of habitat. There is a plethora of research documenting such patterns across ecosystem types and spatial scales. However, deeper dimensions of biodiversity have been less explored. For example, less is known about how habitat alteration/loss can lead to phylogenetic deconstruction of ecological assemblages at the local level. That is, while species loss is evident, are some lineages favored more than others? Using a long term dataset of an ecologically important guild of invertebrate consumers, stream leaf “shredders”, we created a phylogenetic tree of the taxa in the regional species pool, calculated mean phylogenetic distinctiveness for > 800 communities spanning >10 y period, and related species richness, phylogenetic diversity and distinctiveness to watershed scale impervious cover.
Using a combination of linear regression and change point analyses, we learned that shifts in impervious cover not only induced significant loss of shredder species at ~10%, but the patterns held for both phylogenetic diversity and average assemblage phylogenetic distinctiveness. So, not only are species lost, as other studies have demonstrated, but those lost are members of more distinct lineages relative to the community as a whole. Such discoveries are made possible with consistent, long term sampling efforts.