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Climatic and soil factors explain the two-dimensional spectrum of global plant trait variation


Abstract

Plant functional traits can predict community assembly and ecosystem functioning and are thus widely used in global models of vegetation dynamics and land–climate feedbacks. Still, we lack a global understanding of how land and climate affect plant traits. A previous global analysis of six traits observed two main axes of variation: (1) size variation at the organ and plant level and (2) leaf economics balancing leaf persistence against plant growth potential. The orthogonality of these two axes suggests they are differently influenced by environmental drivers. We find that these axes persist in a global dataset of 17 traits across more than 20,000 species. We find a dominant joint effect of climate and soil on trait variation. Additional independent climate effects are also observed across most traits, whereas independent soil effects are almost exclusively observed for economics traits. Variation in size traits correlates well with a latitudinal gradient related to water or energy limitation. In contrast, variation in economics traits is better explained by interactions of climate with soil fertility. These findings have the potential to improve our understanding of biodiversity patterns and our predictions of climate change impacts on biogeochemical cycles.

Abstract

Plant functional traits can predict community assembly and ecosystem functioning and are thus widely used in global models of vegetation dynamics and land–climate feedbacks. Still, we lack a global understanding of how land and climate affect plant traits. A previous global analysis of six traits observed two main axes of variation: (1) size variation at the organ and plant level and (2) leaf economics balancing leaf persistence against plant growth potential. The orthogonality of these two axes suggests they are differently influenced by environmental drivers. We find that these axes persist in a global dataset of 17 traits across more than 20,000 species. We find a dominant joint effect of climate and soil on trait variation. Additional independent climate effects are also observed across most traits, whereas independent soil effects are almost exclusively observed for economics traits. Variation in size traits correlates well with a latitudinal gradient related to water or energy limitation. In contrast, variation in economics traits is better explained by interactions of climate with soil fertility. These findings have the potential to improve our understanding of biodiversity patterns and our predictions of climate change impacts on biogeochemical cycles.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
08 Research Priority Programs > Global Change and Biodiversity
07 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 January 2022
Deposited On:12 Jan 2022 15:10
Last Modified:21 Sep 2023 07:16
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:2397-334X
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01616-8
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID640176
  • : Project TitleBACI - Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties â�� towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index: BACI
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID640176
  • : Project TitleBACI - Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties â�� towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index: BACI
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID640176
  • : Project TitleBACI - Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties â�� towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index: BACI
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID640176
  • : Project TitleBACI - Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties â�� towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index: BACI
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID640176
  • : Project TitleBACI - Detecting changes in essential ecosystem and biodiversity properties â�� towards a Biosphere Atmosphere Change Index: BACI
  • : FunderNOMIS Stiftung
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderNOMIS grant Remotely Sensing Ecological Genomics to M. Schaepman
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderMax-Planck-Gesellschaft
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderC. Wirth acknowledges the support of the Max Planck Society via its fellowship programme.
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderThe trait data supplied was co-funded by the EU-FP7-KBBE project: BACCARA - Biodiversity and climate change, a risk analysis
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)