Abstract Detail



The evolution of functional traits in plants: is the giant still sleeping?

Swenson, Nathan [1], Worthy, Samantha [2].

Reframing trait-based population and community ecology and trait-demographic rate analyses to catalyze a synthesis with evolutionary biology.

The relationship between plant functional traits and demographic performance forms the foundation of trait-based ecology. It also serves as the natural linkage between trait-based ecology and evolutionary biology. Despite these important aspects, plant trait-demographic performance relationships reported in the literature are typically weak or non-existent and a synthetic picture of how traits are related to ecological and evolutionary outcome remains under-developed. Here, we begin by presenting an overview of the shortcomings in functional trait-demographic performance research and why weak results are more common than trait-based ecologists like to admit. We then discuss why there should be a natural synthesis between trait-based ecology and evolutionary biology and potential reasons for why this synthesis has yet to emerge. Finally, we present a series of conceptual and empirical foci that should be incorporated into future trait-demographic performance research that will hopefully solidify the foundation of trait-based ecology and catalyze a synthesis with evolutionary biology. These include: (1) focusing on individuals as the fundamental unit of study instead of relying on population or species mean values for traits and demographic rates; (2) placing more emphasis on phenotypic integration, alternative designs and performance landscapes; (3) coming to terms with the importance of regional- and local-scale context on plant performance; (4) an appreciation of the varied drivers of life stage transitions and what aspects of function should be linked to those transitions; and (5) determining how the drivers of plant mortality act independently and in concert and what aspects of plant function best predict these outcomes. Our goal is to help highlight the shortcomings of trait-demographic performance research as it stands and areas where this research could course correct, ultimately, with the hope of promoting a trait-based research program that speaks to both ecologists and evolutionary biologists.


Related Links:
Swenson Lab @ UMD Website
Samantha Worthy Website


1 - University Of Maryland, 4207 Biology Psychology Building, College Park, MD, 21146, United States
2 - University of Maryland, Biology, 1210 Biology Psychology Bldg., 4094 Campus Dr., University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20742, USA

Keywords:
Functional traits
Demographic Rate
Forest Ecology.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Number: 0007
Abstract ID:960
Candidate for Awards:None


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