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Title: Improving landscape‐scale productivity estimates by integrating trait‐based models and remotely‐sensed foliar‐trait and canopy‐structural data
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Understanding the driving mechanisms behind existing patterns of vegetation hydraulic traits and community trait diversity is critical for advancing predictions of the terrestrial carbon cycle because hydraulic traits affect both ecosystem and Earth system responses to changing water availability. Here, we leverage an extensive trait database and a long-term continental forest plot network to map changes in community trait distributions and quantify “trait velocities” (the rate of change in community-weighted traits) for different regions and different forest types across the United States from 2000 to the present. We show that diversity in hydraulic traits and photosynthetic characteristics is more related to local water availability than overall species diversity. Finally, we find evidence for coordinated shifts toward communities with more drought-tolerant traits driven by tree mortality, but the magnitude of responses differs depending on forest type. The hydraulic trait distribution maps provide a publicly available platform to fundamentally advance understanding of community trait change in response to climate change and predictive abilities of mechanistic vegetation models.