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Title

Stress from cold and drought as drivers of functional trait spectra in North American angiosperm tree assemblages

AuthorsŠímová, Irena; Rueda, Marta; Hawkins, Bradford A.
KeywordsCold tolerance
Commity assembly
Environmental filtering
Biogeography
Macroecology
Woody species
Issue Date2017
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
CitationEcology and Evolution, 7: 7548–7559.(2017)
AbstractUnderstanding how environmental change alters the composition of plant assemblages, and how this in turn affects ecosystem functioning is a major challenge in the face of global climate change. Assuming that values of plant traits express species adaptations to the environment, the trait-based approach is a promising way to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, how functional traits are related to species’ environmental tolerances and how trait spectra respond to broad-scale environmental gradients remains largely unexplored. Here, we identify the main trait spectra for US angiosperm trees by testing hypotheses for the relationships between functional traits and species’ environmental tolerances to environmental stresses, as well as quantifying the environmental drivers of assemblage means and variances of these traits. We analyzed >74,000 community assemblages from the US Forest Inventory and Analysis using 12 functional traits, five traits expressing species’ environmental tolerances and 10 environmental variables. Results indicated that leaf traits, dispersal traits, and traits related to stem hydraulics were related to cold or drought tolerance, and their assemblage means were best explained by minimum temperatures. Assemblage means of traits related to shade tolerance (tree growth rate, leaf phosphorus content, and bark thickness) were best explained by aridity index. Surprisingly, aridity index, rather than minimum temperature, was the best predictors of assemblage variances of most traits, although these relationships were variable and weak overall. We conclude that temperature is likely to be the most important driver of functional community structure of North American angiosperm trees by selecting for optimum strategies along the cold and drought stress trade-off. In turn, water availability primarily affects traits related to shade tolerance through its effect on forest canopy structure and vegetation openness
Publisher version (URL)htpp://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.3297
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/155972
DOI10.1002/ece3.3297
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