Advanced

Traditional plant functional groups explain variation in economic but not size-related traits across the tundra biome

Thomas, H. J.D.; Myers-Smith, I. H.; Bjorkman, A. D.; Elmendorf, S. C.; Blok, D. LU ; Cornelissen, J. H.C.; Forbes, B. C.; Hollister, R. D.; Normand, S. and Prevéy, J. S., et al. (2018) In Global Ecology and Biogeography
Abstract

Aim: Plant functional groups are widely used in community ecology and earth system modelling to describe trait variation within and across plant communities. However, this approach rests on the assumption that functional groups explain a large proportion of trait variation among species. We test whether four commonly used plant functional groups represent variation in six ecologically important plant traits. Location: Tundra biome. Time period: Data collected between 1964 and 2016. Major taxa studied: 295 tundra vascular plant species. Methods: We compiled a database of six plant traits (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, leaf nitrogen, seed mass) for tundra species. We examined the variation in... (More)

Aim: Plant functional groups are widely used in community ecology and earth system modelling to describe trait variation within and across plant communities. However, this approach rests on the assumption that functional groups explain a large proportion of trait variation among species. We test whether four commonly used plant functional groups represent variation in six ecologically important plant traits. Location: Tundra biome. Time period: Data collected between 1964 and 2016. Major taxa studied: 295 tundra vascular plant species. Methods: We compiled a database of six plant traits (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, leaf nitrogen, seed mass) for tundra species. We examined the variation in species-level trait expression explained by four traditional functional groups (evergreen shrubs, deciduous shrubs, graminoids, forbs), and whether variation explained was dependent upon the traits included in analysis. We further compared the explanatory power and species composition of functional groups to alternative classifications generated using post hoc clustering of species-level traits. Results: Traditional functional groups explained significant differences in trait expression, particularly amongst traits associated with resource economics, which were consistent across sites and at the biome scale. However, functional groups explained 19% of overall trait variation and poorly represented differences in traits associated with plant size. Post hoc classification of species did not correspond well with traditional functional groups, and explained twice as much variation in species-level trait expression. Main conclusions: Traditional functional groups only coarsely represent variation in well-measured traits within tundra plant communities, and better explain resource economic traits than size-related traits. We recommend caution when using functional group approaches to predict tundra ecosystem change, or ecosystem functions relating to plant size, such as albedo or carbon storage. We argue that alternative classifications or direct use of specific plant traits could provide new insight into ecological prediction and modelling.

(Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
, et al. (More)
(Less)
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
in press
subject
keywords
cluster analysis, community composition, ecosystem function, plant functional groups, plant functional types, plant traits, tundra biome, vegetation change
in
Global Ecology and Biogeography
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • scopus:85056643627
ISSN
1466-822X
DOI
10.1111/geb.12783
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
886996d2-c1b5-45f4-af78-841b0472ecf6
date added to LUP
2018-12-21 09:43:57
date last changed
2019-08-14 04:29:38
@article{886996d2-c1b5-45f4-af78-841b0472ecf6,
  abstract     = {<p>Aim: Plant functional groups are widely used in community ecology and earth system modelling to describe trait variation within and across plant communities. However, this approach rests on the assumption that functional groups explain a large proportion of trait variation among species. We test whether four commonly used plant functional groups represent variation in six ecologically important plant traits. Location: Tundra biome. Time period: Data collected between 1964 and 2016. Major taxa studied: 295 tundra vascular plant species. Methods: We compiled a database of six plant traits (plant height, leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, leaf nitrogen, seed mass) for tundra species. We examined the variation in species-level trait expression explained by four traditional functional groups (evergreen shrubs, deciduous shrubs, graminoids, forbs), and whether variation explained was dependent upon the traits included in analysis. We further compared the explanatory power and species composition of functional groups to alternative classifications generated using post hoc clustering of species-level traits. Results: Traditional functional groups explained significant differences in trait expression, particularly amongst traits associated with resource economics, which were consistent across sites and at the biome scale. However, functional groups explained 19% of overall trait variation and poorly represented differences in traits associated with plant size. Post hoc classification of species did not correspond well with traditional functional groups, and explained twice as much variation in species-level trait expression. Main conclusions: Traditional functional groups only coarsely represent variation in well-measured traits within tundra plant communities, and better explain resource economic traits than size-related traits. We recommend caution when using functional group approaches to predict tundra ecosystem change, or ecosystem functions relating to plant size, such as albedo or carbon storage. We argue that alternative classifications or direct use of specific plant traits could provide new insight into ecological prediction and modelling.</p>},
  author       = {Thomas, H. J.D. and Myers-Smith, I. H. and Bjorkman, A. D. and Elmendorf, S. C. and Blok, D. and Cornelissen, J. H.C. and Forbes, B. C. and Hollister, R. D. and Normand, S. and Prevéy, J. S. and Rixen, C. and Schaepman-Strub, G. and Wilmking, M. and Wipf, S. and Cornwell, W. and Kattge, J. and Goetz, S. J. and Guay, K. C. and Alatalo, J. M. and Anadon-Rosell, A. and Angers-Blondin, S. and Berner, L. T. and Björk, R. G. and Buchwal, A. and Buras, A. and Carbognani, M. and Christie, K. and Siegwart Collier, L. and Cooper, E. J. and Eskelinen, A. and Frei, E. R. and Grau, O. and Grogan, P. and Hallinger, M. and Heijman, M. M.P.D. and Hermanutz, L. and Hudson, J. M.G. and Hülber, K. and Iturrate-Garcia, M. and Iversen, C. M. and Jaroszynska, F. and Johnstone, J. F. and Kaarlejärvi, E. and Kulonen, A. and Lamarque, L. J. and Lévesque, E. and Little, C. J. and Michelsen, A. and Milbau, A. and Nabe-Nielsen, J. and Nielsen, S. S. and Ninot, J. M. and Oberbauer, S. F. and Olofsson, J. and Onipchenko, V. G. and Petraglia, A. and Rumpf, S. B. and Semenchuk, P. R. and Soudzilovskaia, N. A. and Spasojevic, M. J. and Speed, J. D.M. and Tape, K. D. and Te Beest, M. and Tomaselli, M. and Trant, A. and Treier, U. A. and Venn, S. and Vowles, T. and Weijers, S. and Zamin, T. and Atkin, O. K. and Bahn, M. and Blonder, B. and Campetella, G. and Cerabolini, B. E.L. and Chapin, F. S. and Dainese, M. and de Vries, F. T. and Díaz, S. and Green, W. and Jackson, R. and Manning, P. and Niinemets,  and Ozinga, W. A. and Peñuelas, J. and Reich, P. B. and Schamp, B. and Sheremetev, S. and van Bodegom, P. M.},
  issn         = {1466-822X},
  keyword      = {cluster analysis,community composition,ecosystem function,plant functional groups,plant functional types,plant traits,tundra biome,vegetation change},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Global Ecology and Biogeography},
  title        = {Traditional plant functional groups explain variation in economic but not size-related traits across the tundra biome},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/geb.12783},
  year         = {2018},
}