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Intraspecific trait variability of trees is related to canopy species richness in European forests

AuthorsBenavides, Raquel ; Valladares Ros, Fernando ; Wirth, Christian; Müller, Sandra; Scherer-Lorenzen, Michael
European forest
Intraspecific variability
Plant functional traits
Issue DateFeb-2019
CitationPerspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 36: 24-32 (2019)
AbstractFunctional diversity informs about biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships. The intraspecific component of functional diversity (i.e. the phenotypic space of each species) depicts individual differences in the resource use and fitness among conspecifics, and gives valuable information about the functional similarity (competition) or dissimilarity (complementarity) of coexisting species. Here, we quantified trait differences within tree species along local diversity gradients to shed light on the role that this intraspecific variability exerts on functional complementarity of tree species. We measured architectural traits in 5,036 individuals and leaf traits in 1,403 individuals from nine dominant tree species, surveyed in 92 plots located in three major European forest types (Mediterranean, temperate and boreal forests). In each forest type, plots were positioned along a canopy richness gradient, with every study species present in different species richness levels, including monocultures. Our results showed that the relative magnitude of intraspecific trait variability to community-level variability is high in these forests. At the species level, we found adjustments of species leaf traits (mean shifts) in response to neighbouring trees, suggesting the existence of processes that limit niche overlap. We also found higher variability in architectural traits of conspecific individuals in more diverse canopies, suggesting greater niche packing and a more efficient use of available space as the number of species in the canopy increases. Altogether, our results support the hypothesis that differential responses of individuals within a species promote species complementarity, suggesting that biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships cannot be properly estimated without accounting for the intraspecific level of functional variation.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ppees.2018.12.002
Appears in Collections:(MNCN) Artículos
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