Evidence of temporal niche separation via low flowering time overlap in an old-field plant community.
Flowering time is a trait that reflects the timing of specific resource requirements by plants. Consequently, several predictions have been made related to how species are assembled within communities according to flowering time. Strong overlap in flowering time among coexisting species may result from clustered abiotic resources, or contribute to improved pollination success. Conversely, low flowering time overlap (asynchrony) among coexisting species may reduce competition for soil, light, or pollinator resources and alleviate interspecific pollen transfer. Here, we present evidence that coexisting species in an old-field community generally overlap less in flowering time than expected under a commonly used and statistically validated null model. Flowering time asynchrony was more pronounced when abundance data were used (compared to presence-absence data), and when analyses focused on species that share bees as pollinators. Control and herbivore-exclusion plots did not differ in flowering time overlap, providing no evidence of the reduction in overlap expected to result from increased competition. Our results varied with the randomization algorithm used, emphasizing that the choice of algorithm can influence the outcome of null models. Our results varied between 2 years, with patterns being less clear in the second year, when both growing season and flowering times were contracted. Finally, we found evidence that further supports a previous finding that higher plot-level flowering time overlap was associated with higher proportions of introduced species. Reduced flowering time overlap among species in our focal community may promote coexistence via temporal niche differentiation and reduced competition for pollinators and other abiotic resources.