Department of Biology

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Henrik Balslev

Fundamental species traits explain provisioning services of tropical American palms

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  • Rodrigo Cámara-Leret, United Kingdom
  • Søren Faurby, Denmark
  • Manuel J Macía, Spain
  • Henrik Balslev
  • Bastian Göldel, Germany
  • J.-C. Svenning
  • W Daniel Kissling, Netherlands
  • Nina Rønsted, Denmark
  • C Haris Saslis-Lagoudakis, Denmark
Human well-being around the globe rests on the provisioning services delivered by 15% of the Earth’s 350,000 plant species. Species’ traits influence the way in which plants are utilised1, yet it is not well understood which traits underpin different human needs2. Here, we focus on palms, one of the most economically important plant groups globally3, and show that provisioning services related to basic needs, such as food and medicine, show a strong link with different combinations of traits. We integrate data from 2,201 interviews on plant utilisation from three biodiversity hotspots in South America – spanning 68 communities, 42 human cultures and 2,221 plant uses – along with a comparative dataset of four traits (leaf length, stem volume, fruit volume and range size). For 208 palm species, we test for correlations between species’ perceived value and their traits. We find that people overutilise large and widespread species compared to small and narrow-ranged species, and that different traits are correlated with different uses. More importantly, the effect size of traits related to size and range increases along the axis of importance of human needs. Using a comprehensive palm phylogeny4 we show that our findings hold even when accounting for phylogenetic clustering of traits and utility due to phylogenetic relatedness5. Beyond expanding our understanding of how local stakeholders perceive and explore biodiversity in mega-diverse forests, our trait- and phylogeny-based approach helps to better understand the processes that underpin ecosystem services, which is a necessary step to meet current and future societal needs in a changing environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16220
JournalNature Plants
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2017

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