The unfolding of plant growth form-defence syndromes along elevation gradients.

Research paper by Emmanuel E Defossez, Loïc L Pellissier, Sergio S Rasmann

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 28 Feb '18Published in: Ecology Letters


Understanding the functional economics that drives plant investment of resources requires investigating the interface between plant phenotypes and the variation in ecological conditions. While allocation to defence represents a large portion of the carbon budget, this axis is usually neglected in the study of plant economic spectrum. Using a novel geometrical approach, we analysed the co-variation in a comprehensive set of functional traits related to plant growth strategies, as well as chemical defences against herbivores on all 15 Cardamine species present in the Swiss Alps. By extracting geometrical information of the functional space, we observed clustering of plants into three main syndromes. Those different strategies of growth form and defence were also distributed within distinct elevational bands demonstrating an association between the functional space and the ecological conditions. We conclude that plant strategies converge into clear syndromes that trade off abiotic tolerance, growth and defence within each elevation zone. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.