Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities

Helge Bruelheide*, Jürgen Dengler, Oliver Purschke, Jonathan Lenoir, Borja Jiménez-Alfaro, Stephan M. Hennekens, Zoltán Botta-Dukát, Milan Chytrý, Richard Field, Florian Jansen, Jens Kattge, Valério D. Pillar, Franziska Schrodt, Miguel D. Mahecha, Robert K. Peet, Brody Sandel, Peter van Bodegom, Jan Altman, Esteban Alvarez-Dávila, Mohammed A.S. Arfin KhanFabio Attorre, Isabelle Aubin, Christopher Baraloto, Jorcely G. Barroso, Marijn Bauters, Erwin Bergmeier, Idoia Biurrun, Anne D. Bjorkman, Benjamin Blonder, Andraž Čarni, Luis Cayuela, Tomáš Černý, J. Hans C. Cornelissen, Dylan Craven, Matteo Dainese, Géraldine Derroire, Michele De Sanctis, Sandra Díaz, Jiří Doležal, William Farfan-Rios, Ted R. Feldpausch, Nicole J. Fenton, Eric Garnier, Greg R. Guerin, Alvaro G. Gutiérrez, Sylvia Haider, Tarek Hattab, Greg Henry, Bruno Hérault, Pedro Higuchi, Norbert Hölzel, Jürgen Homeier, Anke Jentsch, Norbert Jürgens, Zygmunt Kącki, Dirk N. Karger, Michael Kessler, Michael Kleyer, Ilona Knollová, Andrey Y. Korolyuk, Ingolf Kühn, Daniel C. Laughlin, Frederic Lens, Jacqueline Loos, Frédérique Louault, Mariyana I. Lyubenova, Yadvinder Malhi, Corrado Marcenò, Maurizio Mencuccini, Jonas V. Müller, Jérôme Munzinger, Isla H. Myers-Smith, David A. Neill, Ülo Niinemets, Kate H. Orwin, Wim A. Ozinga, Josep Penuelas, Aaron Pérez-Haase, Petr Petřík, Oliver L. Phillips, Meelis Pärtel, Peter B. Reich, Christine Römermann, Arthur V. Rodrigues, Francesco Maria Sabatini, Jordi Sardans, Marco Schmidt, Gunnar Seidler, Javier Eduardo Silva Espejo, Marcos Silveira, Anita Smyth, Maria Sporbert, Jens Christian Svenning, Zhiyao Tang, Raquel Thomas, Ioannis Tsiripidis, Kiril Vassilev, Cyrille Violle, Risto Virtanen, Evan Weiher, Erik Welk, Karsten Wesche, Marten Winter, Christian Wirth, Ute Jandt

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Plant functional traits directly affect ecosystem functions. At the species level, trait combinations depend on trade-offs representing different ecological strategies, but at the community level trait combinations are expected to be decoupled from these trade-offs because different strategies can facilitate co-existence within communities. A key question is to what extent community-level trait composition is globally filtered and how well it is related to global versus local environmental drivers. Here, we perform a global, plot-level analysis of trait–environment relationships, using a database with more than 1.1 million vegetation plots and 26,632 plant species with trait information. Although we found a strong filtering of 17 functional traits, similar climate and soil conditions support communities differing greatly in mean trait values. The two main community trait axes that capture half of the global trait variation (plant stature and resource acquisitiveness) reflect the trade-offs at the species level but are weakly associated with climate and soil conditions at the global scale. Similarly, within-plot trait variation does not vary systematically with macro-environment. Our results indicate that, at fine spatial grain, macro-environmental drivers are much less important for functional trait composition than has been assumed from floristic analyses restricted to co-occurrence in large grid cells. Instead, trait combinations seem to be predominantly filtered by local-scale factors such as disturbance, fine-scale soil conditions, niche partitioning and biotic interactions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1906-1917
    Number of pages12
    JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
    Issue number12
    Early online date19 Nov 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


    The sPlot was initiated by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118) and is now a platform of iDiv. H.B., J.De., O.Pu, U.J., B.J.-A., J.K., D.C., F.M.S., M.W. and C.W. appreciate the direct funding through iDiv. For all further acknowledgements see the Supplementary Information.

    FundersFunder number
    Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research
    Natural Environment Research CouncilNE/N012453/1, NE/N012542/1, NE/M019160/1, NE/M022021/1, NE/I014705/1, NE/M016323/1, NE/N012550/1
    Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftFZT 118


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