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

Siefert, Andrew; Violle, Cyrille; Chalmandrier, Loïc; Albert, Cécile H.; Taudiere, Adrien; Fajardo, Alex; Aarssen, Lonnie W.; Baraloto, Christopher; Carlucci, Marcos B.; Cianciaruso, Marcus V.; de L. Dantas, Vinícius; de Bello, Francesco; Duarte, Leandro D.S.; Fonseca, Carlos R.; Freschet, Grégoire T.; Gaucherand, Stéphanie; Gross, Nicolas; Hikosaka, Kouki; Jackson, Benjamin; Jung, Vincent; Kamiyama, Chiho; Katabuchi, Masatoshi; Kembel, Steven W.; Kichenin, Emilie; Kraft, Nathan J.B.; Lagerström, Anna; Bagousse-Pinguet, Yoann Le; Li, Yuanzhi; Mason, Norman; Messier, Julie; Nakashizuka, Tohru; Overton, Jacob McC.; Peltzer, Duane A.; Pérez-Ramos, I.M.; Pillar, Valério D.; Prentice, Honor C.; Richardson, Sarah; Sasaki, Takehiro; Schamp, Brandon S.; Schöb, Christian; Shipley, Bill; Sundqvist, Maja; Sykes, Martin T.; Vandewalle, Marie; Wardle, David A.. 2015 A global meta-analysis of the relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities. Ecology Letters, 18 (12). 1406-1419.

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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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Shore
ISSN: 1461-023X
Additional Keywords: community ecology, functional diversity, interspecific variation, intraspecific variability, leaf trait, plant functional trait, trait-based ecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 23 Dec 2015 11:45 +0 (UTC)

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