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  1. Abstract Researchers use both experiments and observations to study the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, but results from these contrasting approaches have not been systematically compared for droughts. Using a meta-analysis and accounting for potential confounding factors, we demonstrate that aboveground biomass responded only about half as much to experimentally imposed drought events as to natural droughts. Our findings indicate that experimental results may underestimate climate change impacts and highlight the need to integrate results across approaches.
  2. Thrall, Peter (Ed.)
  3. Abstract Plant functional traits can predict community assembly and ecosystem functioning and are thus widely used in global models of vegetation dynamics and land–climate feedbacks. Still, we lack a global understanding of how land and climate affect plant traits. A previous global analysis of six traits observed two main axes of variation: (1) size variation at the organ and plant level and (2) leaf economics balancing leaf persistence against plant growth potential. The orthogonality of these two axes suggests they are differently influenced by environmental drivers. We find that these axes persist in a global dataset of 17 traits across more than 20,000 species. We find a dominant joint effect of climate and soil on trait variation. Additional independent climate effects are also observed across most traits, whereas independent soil effects are almost exclusively observed for economics traits. Variation in size traits correlates well with a latitudinal gradient related to water or energy limitation. In contrast, variation in economics traits is better explained by interactions of climate with soil fertility. These findings have the potential to improve our understanding of biodiversity patterns and our predictions of climate change impacts on biogeochemical cycles.
  4. Abstract Here we provide the ‘Global Spectrum of Plant Form and Function Dataset’, containing species mean values for six vascular plant traits. Together, these traits –plant height, stem specific density, leaf area, leaf mass per area, leaf nitrogen content per dry mass, and diaspore (seed or spore) mass – define the primary axes of variation in plant form and function. The dataset is based on ca. 1 million trait records received via the TRY database (representing ca. 2,500 original publications) and additional unpublished data. It provides 92,159 species mean values for the six traits, covering 46,047 species. The data are complemented by higher-level taxonomic classification and six categorical traits (woodiness, growth form, succulence, adaptation to terrestrial or aquatic habitats, nutrition type and leaf type). Data quality management is based on a probabilistic approach combined with comprehensive validation against expert knowledge and external information. Intense data acquisition and thorough quality control produced the largest and, to our knowledge, most accurate compilation of empirically observed vascular plant species mean traits to date.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  5. A wide range of research shows that nutrient availability strongly influences terrestrial carbon (C) cycling and shapes ecosystem responses to environmental changes and hence terrestrial feedbacks to climate. Nonetheless, our understanding of nutrient controls remains far from complete and poorly quantified, at least partly due to a lack of informative, comparable, and accessible datasets at regional-to-global scales. A growing research infrastructure of multi-site networks are providing valuable data on C fluxes and stocks and are monitoring their responses to global environmental change and measuring responses to experimental treatments. These networks thus provide an opportunity for improving our understanding of C-nutrient cycle interactions and our ability to model them. However, coherent information on how nutrient cycling interacts with observed C cycle patterns is still generally lacking. Here, we argue that complementing available C-cycle measurements from monitoring and experimental sites with data characterizing nutrient availability will greatly enhance their power and will improve our capacity to forecast future trajectories of terrestrial C cycling and climate. Therefore, we propose a set of complementary measurements that are relatively easy to conduct routinely at any site or experiment and that, in combination with C cycle observations, can provide a robust characterization of the effects ofmore »nutrient availability across sites. In addition, we discuss the power of different observable variables for informing the formulation of models and constraining their predictions. Most widely available measurements of nutrient availability often do not align well with current modelling needs. This highlights the importance to foster the interaction between the empirical and modelling communities for setting future research priorities.« less
  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The leaf economics spectrum 1,2 and the global spectrum of plant forms and functions 3 revealed fundamental axes of variation in plant traits, which represent different ecological strategies that are shaped by the evolutionary development of plant species 2 . Ecosystem functions depend on environmental conditions and the traits of species that comprise the ecological communities 4 . However, the axes of variation of ecosystem functions are largely unknown, which limits our understanding of how ecosystems respond as a whole to anthropogenic drivers, climate and environmental variability 4,5 . Here we derive a set of ecosystem functions 6 from a dataset of surface gas exchange measurements across major terrestrial biomes. We find that most of the variability within ecosystem functions (71.8%) is captured by three key axes. The first axis reflects maximum ecosystem productivity and is mostly explained by vegetation structure. The second axis reflects ecosystem water-use strategies and is jointly explained by variation in vegetation height and climate. The third axis, which represents ecosystem carbon-use efficiency, features a gradient related to aridity, and is explained primarily by variation in vegetation structure. We show that two state-of-the-art land surface models reproduce the first and most important axis of ecosystem functions.more »However, the models tend to simulate more strongly correlated functions than those observed, which limits their ability to accurately predict the full range of responses to environmental changes in carbon, water and energy cycling in terrestrial ecosystems 7,8 .« less
  7. Abstract

    The leaf economic spectrum is a widely studied axis of plant trait variability that defines a trade‐off between leaf longevity and productivity. While this has been investigated at the global scale, where it is robust, and at local scales, where deviations from it are common, it has received less attention at the intermediate scale of plant functional types (PFTs). We investigated whether global leaf economic relationships are also present within the scale of plant functional types (PFTs) commonly used by Earth System models, and the extent to which this global‐PFThierarchy can be used to constrain trait estimates. We developed a hierarchical multivariate Bayesian model that assumes separate means and covariance structures within and acrossPFTs and fit this model to seven leaf traits from theTRYdatabase related to leaf longevity, morphology, biochemistry, and photosynthetic metabolism. Although patterns of trait covariation were generally consistent with the leaf economic spectrum, we found three approximate tiers to this consistency. Relationships among morphological and biochemical traits (specific leaf area [SLA], N, P) were the most robust within and acrossPFTs, suggesting that covariation in these traits is driven by universal leaf construction trade‐offs and stoichiometry. Relationships among metabolic traitsmore »(dark respiration [Rd], maximum RuBisCo carboxylation rate [Vc,max], maximum electron transport rate [Jmax]) were slightly less consistent, reflecting in part their much sparser sampling (especially for high‐latitudePFTs), but also pointing to more flexible plasticity in plant metabolistm. Finally, relationships involving leaf lifespan were the least consistent, indicating that leaf economic relationships related to leaf lifespan are dominated by across‐PFTdifferences and that within‐PFTvariation in leaf lifespan is more complex and idiosyncratic. Across all traits, this covariance was an important source of information, as evidenced by the improved imputation accuracy and reduced predictive uncertainty in multivariate models compared to univariate models. Ultimately, our study reaffirms the value of studying not just individual traits but the multivariate trait space and the utility of hierarchical modeling for studying the scale dependence of trait relationships.

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