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

I have a new paper out! Read it here: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0176959

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.  In this paper Peter Vesk and I ask, can we use functional traits to predict growth of unknown species in different areas?

We used three independently collected datasets (thank you Daniel Falster and Annette Muir for contributing their data), each containing data on heights of individuals from non-resprouting plant 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.

Ecosystems_Growth

Growth curves for species occurring in three different ecosystems

We then tested our capacity to perform out-of-sample prediction of growth trajectories between ecosystems using species functional traits.  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.

Please get in touch if you are interested in this work!

 

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