• Argentina;
  • Climate change;
  • Plant functional trait;
  • Regional gradient
  • Cabrera (1963–1970);
  • Correa (1969–1984)

Abstract. Plant functional types (PFTs) bridge the gap between plant physiology and community and ecosystem processes, thus providing a powerful tool in climate change research. We aimed at identifying PFTs within the flora of central-western Argentina, and to explore their possible consequences for ecosystem function. We analyzed 24 vegetative and regenerative traits of the 100 most abundant species along a steep climatic gradient. Based on plant traits and standard multivariate techniques, we identified eight PFTs. Our results confirmed, over a wide range of climatic conditions, the occurrence of broad recurrent patterns of association among plant traits reported for other floras; namely trade-offs between high investment in photosynthesis and growth on the one hand, and preferential allocation to storage and defence on the other. Regenerative traits were only partially coupled with vegetative traits. Using easily-measured plant traits and individual species cover in 63 sites, we predicted main community-ecosystem processes along the regional gradient. We hypothesized likely impacts of global climatic change on PFTs and ecosystems in situ, and analysed their probabilities of migrating in response to changing climatic conditions. Finally, we discuss the advantages and limitations of this kind of approach in predicting changes in plant distribution and in ecosystem processes over the next century.