A global method for calculating plant CSR ecological strategies applied across biomes worldwide
Simon Pierce, Daniel Negreiros, Bruno E.L. Cerabolini, Jens Kattge, Sandra Díaz, Michael Kleyer, Bill Shipley, S. Joseph Wright, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, Peter M. van Bodegom, Cedric Frenette-Dussault, Evan Weiher, Bruno X. Pinho, Johannes H.C. Cornelissen, J. Philip Grime, Ken Thompson, Roderick Hunt, Peter J. Wilson, Gabriella Buffa, Oliver C. Nyakunga, Peter B. Reich, Marco Caccianiga, Federico Mangili, Roberta M. Ceriani, Alessandra Luzzaro, Guido Brusa, Andrew Siefert, Newton P.U. Barbosa, F. Stuart Chapin III, William K. Cornwell, Jingyun Fang, G. Wilson Fernandes, Eric Garnier, Soizig Le Stradic, Josep Peñuelas, Felipe P. L. Melo, Antonio Slaviero, Marcelo Tabarelli and Duccio Tampucci
Accepted manuscript online: 2 AUG 2016 09:35AM EST | DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12722
A vast range of plant biodiversity exists on Earth, with each species characterised by a particular suite of morphological traits. However, not all traits affect survival and many operate only during brief moments of the life-cycle. Plants exhibit a surprisingly limited number of basic ways in which they can use available resources to grow and persevere: differences in plant size affect the outcome of competition, and differences in the ‘economics’ of how plants invest resources – in individual robustness or in reproduction – determine how plant populations persist during environmental difficulties. Much of biodiversity represents variation around these general themes, or primary ‘strategies’.
Certain size and economics traits that can represent primary functioning, such as leaf size and aspects of photosynthetic tissue density, have now been measured around the world and can potentially provide a global framework within which strategies can be measured and compared. These absolute limits are used here to develop a tool for plant strategy classification, grounded in a theory of plant strategies (competitor, stress-tolerator, ruderal, or ‘CSR’, theory).
As plant adaptation within different geographic regions is intimately linked to climate (particularly temperature and seasonal water availability) there is reason to expect plant strategies to vary at the largest scales, between bioclimatic regions or biomes. The global CSR analysis method was used to analyse the range and character of plant strategies in all 14 major biome classes worldwide. The results did demonstrate differences in functional specialisation between biomes but also detailed a large amount of variability within biomes, probably due to the presence of contrasting habitats and plant communities within each one. However, it is clear that the global ‘CSR analysis’ tool presented here is valid for the functional description of plant species and communities worldwide, and can provide plant ecologists working in different habitats and biomes with a lingua franca equivalent to taxonomists’ use of Latin.