Co-ordinating Editor: Tim O'Connor
Quantifying species trait-functioning relationships for ecosystem management
Version of Record online: 23 MAY 2011
Published 2011. This article is a US Government work and is in the public domain in the USA
Applied Vegetation Science
Special Issue: Including Special Feature on Vegetation Survey: Edited by Milan Chytrý, Joop H.J. Schaminée & Angelika Schwabe
Volume 14, Issue 4, pages 583–595, October 2011
How to Cite
Comas, L.H., Goslee, S.C., Skinner, R.H. and Sanderson, M.A. (2011), Quantifying species trait-functioning relationships for ecosystem management. Applied Vegetation Science, 14: 583–595. doi: 10.1111/j.1654-109X.2011.01136.x
Comas, L.H. (corresponding author, LHComas@gmail.com), Goslee, S.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), Skinner, R.H. (email@example.com) & Sanderson, M.A. (firstname.lastname@example.org): USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, PA 16802, USA Comas, L.H.: Present address: Department of Plant Sciences, MS #2, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.
- Issue online: 1 SEP 2011
- Version of Record online: 23 MAY 2011
- Received 21 July 2010, Accepted 10 April 2011
- Agricultural management;
- Ecosystem function;
- Functional diversity;
- Functional ratings;
- Plant functional types;
Questions: Can we use plant traits to make predictions about ecosystem functioning of different species mixtures, identify inherent trade-offs of particular species, and design custom communities for desired ecosystem functions? Can we develop a methodology to address plant trait–functioning relationships in species-level units, which are missing from measures of community functional diversity but needed for management?
Location: Grazing lands northeastern USA.
Method: We measured 53 physiological, morphological and growth traits for 19 plant species from glasshouse and field experiments. We developed a two-step method to link species to ecosystem processes related to management goals of improving desirable forage production in grazing lands in northeastern USA.
Results: Species were distributed continuously, rather than clustering into discrete functional types. Grasses, legumes and forbs overlapped considerably in trait values with these common classifications failing to adequately distinguish functional differences. Factor analyses were used to assess variation in species traits, and to rate species for six plant processes through which species contribute to the production of desirable forage. Species performed well in some processes and poorly in others, illustrating complex trade-offs.
Conclusions: This methodology provides a foundation for developing tools to guide construction of communities for applied settings, and for assembling hypotheses about plant functioning in mixtures.