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  1. Quaternary climate change reduced and homogenized angiosperm tree diversity across large landscapes worldwide. 
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  2. 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. 
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  3. Abstract Aim

    Despite several recent efforts to map plant traits and to identify their climatic drivers, there are still major gaps. Global trait patterns for major functional groups, in particular, the differences between woody and herbaceous plants, have yet to be identified. Here, we take advantage of big data efforts to compile plant species occurrence and trait data to analyse the spatial patterns of assemblage means and variances of key plant traits. We tested whether these patterns and their climatic drivers are similar for woody and herbaceous plants.


    New World (North and South America).


    Using the largest currently available database of plant occurrences, we provide maps of 200 × 200 km grid‐cell trait means and variances for both woody and herbaceous species and identify environmental drivers related to these patterns. We focus on six plant traits: maximum plant height, specific leaf area, seed mass, wood density, leaf nitrogen concentration and leaf phosphorus concentration.


    For woody assemblages, we found a strong climate signal for both means and variances of most of the studied traits, consistent with strong environmental filtering. In contrast, for herbaceous assemblages, spatial patterns of trait means and variances were more variable, the climate signal on trait means was often different and weaker.

    Main conclusion

    Trait variations for woody versus herbaceous assemblages appear to reflect alternative strategies and differing environmental constraints. Given that most large‐scale trait studies are based on woody species, the strikingly different biogeographic patterns of herbaceous traits suggest that a more synthetic framework is needed that addresses how suites of traits within and across broad functional groups respond to climate.

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