Ecophylogenetics can be viewed as an emerging fusion of ecology, biogeography and macroevolution. This new and fast-growing field is promoting the incorporation of evolution and historical contingencies into the ecological research agenda through the widespread use of phylogenetic data. Including phylogeny into ecological thinking represents an opportunity for biologists from different fields to collaborate and has provided promising avenues of research in both theoretical and empirical ecology, towards a better understanding of the assembly of communities, the functioning of ecosystems and their responses to environmental changes. The time is ripe to assess critically the extent to which the integration of phylogeny into these different fields of ecology has delivered on its promise. Here we review how phylogenetic information has been used to identify better the key components of species interactions with their biotic and abiotic environments, to determine the relationships between diversity and ecosystem functioning and ultimately to establish good management practices to protect overall biodiversity in the face of global change. We evaluate the relevance of information provided by phylogenies to ecologists, highlighting current potential weaknesses and needs for future developments. We suggest that despite the strong progress that has been made, a consistent unified framework is still missing to link local ecological dynamics to macroevolution. This is a necessary step in order to interpret observed phylogenetic patterns in a wider ecological context. Beyond the fundamental question of how evolutionary history contributes to shape communities, ecophylogenetics will help ecology to become a better integrative and predictive science.
© 2012 CNRS. Biological Reviews © 2012 Cambridge Philosophical Society.