Are trait-growth models transferable? Predicting multi-species growth trajectories between ecosystems using plant functional traits

Thomas, F and Vesk, P 2017, 'Are trait-growth models transferable? Predicting multi-species growth trajectories between ecosystems using plant functional traits', PL o S One, vol. 12, no. 5, e0176959, pp. 1-19.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Are trait-growth models transferable? Predicting multi-species growth trajectories between ecosystems using plant functional traits
Author(s) Thomas, F
Vesk, P
Year 2017
Journal name PL o S One
Volume number 12
Issue number 5
Article Number e0176959
Start page 1
End page 19
Total pages 19
Publisher Public Library of Science
Abstract Plant functional traits are increasingly used to generalize across species, however few examples exist of predictions from trait-based models being evaluated in new species or new places. Can we use functional traits to predict growth of unknown species in different areas? We used three independently collected datasets, each containing data on heights of individuals from non-resprouting species over a chronosquence of time-since-fire sites from three ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. We examined the influence of specific leaf area, woody density, seed size and leaf nitrogen content on three aspects of plant growth; maximum relative growth rate, age at maximum growth and asymptotic height. We tested our capacity to perform out-of-sample prediction of growth trajectories between ecosystems using species functional traits. We found strong trait-growth relationships in one of the datasets; whereby species with low SLA achieved the greatest asymptotic heights, species with high leaf-nitrogen content achieved relatively fast growth rates, and species with low seed mass reached their time of maximum growth early. However these same growth-trait relationships did not hold across the two other datasets, making accurate prediction from one dataset to another unachievable. We believe there is evidence to suggest that growth trajectories themselves may be fundamentally different between ecosystems and that trait-height-growth relationships may change over environmental gradients.
Subject Ecology not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Australia
Ecosystem growth rate
Height
Leaf area
Leaf nitrogen content
Model
Plant growth
Prediction
Seed size
Seed weight
Species
Plant development
Theoretical model
DOI - identifier 10.1371/journal.pone.0176959
Copyright notice © 2017 Thomas, Vesk.
ISSN 1932-6203
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