Ecometrics: The traits that bind the past and present together


Correspondence: Jussi T. Eronen, Department of Geosciences and Geography, P.O. Box 64 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a), 00014, Helsinki University, Finland. Email:


We outline here an approach for understanding the biology of climate change, one that integrates data at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Taxon-free trait analysis, or “ecometrics,” is based on the idea that the distribution in a community of ecomorphological traits such as tooth structure, limb proportions, body mass, leaf shape, incubation temperature, claw shape, any aspect of anatomy or physiology can be measured across some subset of the organisms in a community. Regardless of temporal or spatial scale, traits are the means by which organisms interact with their environment, biotic and abiotic. Ecometrics measures these interactions by focusing on traits which are easily measurable, whose structure is closely related to their function, and whose function interacts directly with local environment. Ecometric trait distributions are thus a comparatively universal metric for exploring systems dynamics at all scales. The main challenge now is to move beyond investigating how future climate change will affect the distribution of organisms and how it will impact ecosystem services and to shift the perspective to ask how biotic systems interact with changing climate in general, and how climate change affects the interactions within and between the components of the whole biotic-physical system. We believe that it is possible to provide believable, quantitative answers to these questions. Because of this we have initiated an IUBS program iCCB (integrative Climate Change Biology).