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Different sets of traits explain abundance and distribution patterns of European plants at different spatial scales

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  • Maria Sporbert, University Halle-Wittenberg, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Germany
  • Erik Welk, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
  • Gunnar Seidler, University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
  • Ute Jandt, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
  • Svetlana Acic, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Idoia Biurrun, Univ Basque Country, University of Basque Country, UPV EHU, Dept Plant Biol & Ecol, Spain
  • Juan Antonio Campos, University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU, Spain
  • Andraž Čarni, University of Nova Gorica, Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia
  • Bruno E. L. Cerabolini, University of Insubria, Italy
  • Milan Chytrý, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
  • Renata Ćušterevska, Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, UKIM, Skopje, Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of
  • Jürgen Dengler, University of Bayreuth, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Germany
  • Michele De Sanctis, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy
  • Tetiana Dziuba, NAS of Ukraine M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, Ukraine
  • Jaime Fagúndez, Universidad de A Coruña, Spain
  • Richard Field, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • Valentin Golub, Institute of Ecology of the Volga River Basin, Russian Academy of Sciences, Togliatti, Russian Federation
  • Tianhua He, Curtin University, Murdoch University, Australia
  • Florian Jansen, Rostock University, Germany
  • Jonathan Lenoir, Jules Verne University of Picardie, France
  • Corrado Marcenò, Masaryk University, Czech Republic
  • Irene Martin-Forés, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Jesper Erenskjold Moeslund
  • Marco Moretti, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Switzerland
  • Ülo Niinemets, Estonian University of Life Sciences, Estonia
  • Josep Peñuelas, CSIC, CREAF, Spain
  • Aaron Pérez-Haase, The University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia, University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Vigdis Vandvik, University of Bergen, Norway
  • Kiril Vasilev, Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria
  • Denys Vynokurov, M.G. Kholodny Institute of Botany, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine
  • Helge Bruelheide, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Martin Luther Univ Halle Wittenberg, Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg, Inst Biol Geobot & Bot Garden, Germany
Plant functional traits summarize the main variability in plant form and function across taxa and biomes. We assess whether geographic range size, climatic niche size, and local abundance of plants can be predicted by sets of traits (trait syndromes) or are driven by single traits.


Species distribution maps were extracted from the Chorological Database Halle to derive information on the geographic range size and climatic niche size for 456 herbaceous, dwarf shrub and shrub species. We estimated local species abundances based on 740,113 vegetation plots from the European Vegetation Archive, where abundances were available as plant species cover per plot. We compiled a complete species‐by‐trait‐matrix of 20 plant functional traits from trait databases (TRY, BiolFlor and CLO‐PLA). The relationships of species geographic range size, climatic niche size and local abundance with single traits and trait syndromes were tested with multiple linear regression models.Results
Generally, traits were more strongly related to local abundances than to broad‐scale species distribution patterns in geographic and climatic space (range and niche size), but both were better predicted by trait combinations than by single traits. Local abundance increased with leaf area and specific leaf area (SLA). Geographic range size and climatic niche size both increased with SLA. While range size increased with plant height, niche size decreased with leaf carbon content

Functional traits matter for species abundance and distribution at both local and broad geographic scale. Local abundances are associated with different combinations of traits as compared to broad‐scale distributions, pointing to filtering by different environmental and ecological factors acting at distinct spatial scales. However, traits related to the leaf economics spectrum were important for species abundance and occurrence at both spatial scales. This finding emphasizes the general importance of resource acquisition strategies for the abundance and distribution of herbaceous, dwarf shrub and shrub species.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13016
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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