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  1. Plants are subject to tradeoffs among growth strategies such that adaptations for optimal growth in one condition can preclude optimal growth in another. Thus, we predicted that a plant species that responds positively to one global change treatment would be less likely than average to respond positively to another treatment, particularly for pairs of treatments that favor distinct traits. We examined plant species abundances in 39 global change experiments manipulating two or more of the following: CO2, nitrogen, phosphorus, water, temperature, or disturbance. Overall, the directional response of a species to one treatment was 13% more likely than expected to oppose its response to a another single-factor treatment. This tendency was detectable across the global dataset but held little predictive power for individual treatment combinations or within individual experiments. While tradeoffs in the ability to respond to different global change treatments exert discernible global effects, other forces obscure their influence in local communities. 
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  2. Summary

    Large intraspecific functional trait variation strongly impacts many aspects of communities and ecosystems, and is the medium upon which evolution works. Yet intraspecific trait variation is inconsistent and hard to predict across traits, species and locations.

    We measured within‐species variation in leaf mass per area (LMA), leaf dry matter content (LDMC), branch wood density (WD), and allocation to stem area vs leaf area in branches (branch Huber value (HV)) across the aridity range of seven Australian eucalypts and a co‐occurringAcaciaspecies to explore how traits and their variances change with aridity.

    Within species, we found consistent increases in LMA, LDMC and WD and HV with increasing aridity, resulting in consistent trait coordination across leaves and branches. However, this coordination only emerged across sites with large climate differences. Unlike trait means, patterns of trait variance with aridity were mixed across populations and species. Only LDMC showed constrained trait variation in more xeric species and drier populations that could indicate limits to plasticity or heritable trait variation.

    Our results highlight that climate can drive consistent within‐species trait patterns, but that patterns might often be obscured by the complex nature of morphological traits, sampling incomplete species ranges or sampling confounded stress gradients.

     
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  3. Global change drivers (GCDs) are expected to alter community structure and consequently, the services that ecosystems provide. Yet, few experimental investigations have examined effects of GCDs on plant community structure across multiple ecosystem types, and those that do exist present conflicting patterns. In an unprecedented global synthesis of over 100 experiments that manipulated factors linked to GCDs, we show that herbaceous plant community responses depend on experimental manipulation length and number of factors manipulated. We found that plant communities are fairly resistant to experimentally manipulated GCDs in the short term (<10 y). In contrast, long-term (≥10 y) experiments show increasing community divergence of treatments from control conditions. Surprisingly, these community responses occurred with similar frequency across the GCD types manipulated in our database. However, community responses were more common when 3 or more GCDs were simultaneously manipulated, suggesting the emergence of additive or synergistic effects of multiple drivers, particularly over long time periods. In half of the cases, GCD manipulations caused a difference in community composition without a corresponding species richness difference, indicating that species reordering or replacement is an important mechanism of community responses to GCDs and should be given greater consideration when examining consequences of GCDs for the biodiversity–ecosystem function relationship. Human activities are currently driving unparalleled global changes worldwide. Our analyses provide the most comprehensive evidence to date that these human activities may have widespread impacts on plant community composition globally, which will increase in frequency over time and be greater in areas where communities face multiple GCDs simultaneously. 
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  4. Abstract

    Global change is impacting plant community composition, but the mechanisms underlying these changes are unclear. Using a dataset of 58 global change experiments, we tested the five fundamental mechanisms of community change: changes in evenness and richness, reordering, species gains and losses. We found 71% of communities were impacted by global change treatments, and 88% of communities that were exposed to two or more global change drivers were impacted. Further, all mechanisms of change were equally likely to be affected by global change treatments—species losses and changes in richness were just as common as species gains and reordering. We also found no evidence of a progression of community changes, for example, reordering and changes in evenness did not precede species gains and losses. We demonstrate that all processes underlying plant community composition changes are equally affected by treatments and often occur simultaneously, necessitating a wholistic approach to quantifying community changes.

     
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