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A global meta-analysis of the relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities


Abstract

Recent studies have shown that accounting for intraspecific trait variation (ITV) may better address major questions in community ecology. However, a general picture of the relative extent of ITV compared to interspecific trait variation in plant communities is still missing. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of the relative extent of ITV within and among plant communities worldwide, using a data set encompassing 629 communities (plots) and 36 functional traits. Overall, ITV accounted for 25% of the total trait variation within communities and 32% of the total trait variation among communities on average. The relative extent of ITV tended to be greater for whole-plant (e.g. plant height) vs. organ-level traits and for leaf chemical (e.g. leaf N and P concentration) vs. leaf morphological (e.g. leaf area and thickness) traits. The relative amount of ITV decreased with increasing species richness and spatial extent, but did not vary with plant growth form or climate. These results highlight global patterns in the relative importance of ITV in plant communities, providing practical guidelines for when researchers should include ITV in trait-based community and ecosystem studies.

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that accounting for intraspecific trait variation (ITV) may better address major questions in community ecology. However, a general picture of the relative extent of ITV compared to interspecific trait variation in plant communities is still missing. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of the relative extent of ITV within and among plant communities worldwide, using a data set encompassing 629 communities (plots) and 36 functional traits. Overall, ITV accounted for 25% of the total trait variation within communities and 32% of the total trait variation among communities on average. The relative extent of ITV tended to be greater for whole-plant (e.g. plant height) vs. organ-level traits and for leaf chemical (e.g. leaf N and P concentration) vs. leaf morphological (e.g. leaf area and thickness) traits. The relative amount of ITV decreased with increasing species richness and spatial extent, but did not vary with plant growth form or climate. These results highlight global patterns in the relative importance of ITV in plant communities, providing practical guidelines for when researchers should include ITV in trait-based community and ecosystem studies.

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16 citations in Web of Science®
16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:10 Mar 2016 17:01
Last Modified:28 Sep 2016 00:00
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:1461-023X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.12508
Official URL:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12508/full

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