Spatial aggregation patterns in four mistletoe species: ecological and environmental determinants

S. Ojeda, M. Arancibia, F. Gómez, I. B. Sepúlveda, J. I. Orellana, F. E. Fontúrbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plant spatial distribution is an important topic in ecology as it determines species coexistence and biodiversity dynamics. Usually, plants show clustered distributions in nature. Mistletoes are a good example of aggregated distributions, as they form dense aggregations due to several factors (availability of competent hosts, seed dispersal vectors, microclimate conditions). We analysed four native mistletoe species with divergent life histories and host ranges: Desmaria mutabilis and Tristerix corymbosus from the temperate rainforests of southern Chile; and Tristerix aphyllus and Tristerix verticillatus from the northern semi-desert zone. While T. corymbosus and T. verticillatus have a wide host range, T. aphyllus and D. mutabilis are specialists that can parasitize only a few plant species. We hypothesized that specialized species would be more aggregated due to ecological and environmental restrictions. We used heterogeneous Poisson models to quantify spatial aggregation. Three of the four mistletoe species were spatially clustered at both environments, with aggregation being stronger in the temperate rainforest of southern Chile and particularly in the host-specialist species. Our results suggest that environmental constraints are more important than ecological constraints (host range) in shaping mistletoe spatial structure. Mistletoe aggregated spatial distribution depends primarily on the environment that they inhabit, which conditions host spatial availability, and arrangement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1195
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Chile
  • desert
  • parasitism
  • seed dispersal
  • spatial structure
  • temperate rainforest


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