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Functional diversity of the Australian flora: Strong links to species richness and climate


Andrew, SC and Mokany, K and Falster, DS and Wenk, E and Wright, IJ and Merow, C and Adams, V and Gallagher, RV, Functional diversity of the Australian flora: Strong links to species richness and climate, Journal of Vegetation Science, 32, (2) Article e13018. ISSN 1100-9233 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2021 International Association for Vegetation Science

DOI: doi:10.1111/jvs.13018


Questions: The taxonomic and functional composition of plant communities captures different dimensions of diversity. Functional diversity (FD) - as calculated from species traits - typically increases with species richness in communities and is expected to be higher in less extreme environments, where a broader range of functional strategies can persist. Further, woody and herbaceous plant families may contribute disproportionately to FD in different bioregions. To build an understanding of these questions using Australia as a case study, we aimed to quantify how FD varies: (a) with species richness, (b) with climate, and (c) between major plant families representing different growth forms.

Location: Australia.

Methods: Data on species distribution and functional traits for 14,003 species were combined and FD approximated using hypervolumes (i.e. multidimensional species assemblage trait niche) based on three traits key to understanding plant ecological strategies: leaf size, seed mass and adult height. Plant assemblage hypervolumes were calculated including all species with suitable habitat in each 10 10 km grid cell across Australia, and in each of 85 bioregions. Within bioregions FD was also calculated separately for a suite of largely woody and herbaceous plant families. Relationships between FD, species richness and climate were explored.

Results: As predicted, FD was positively related to species richness and annual precipitation, and negatively related to summer maximum temperature, both in analyses of 10 km 10 km grid cells and of bioregions (all p < 0.005). However, FD was lowest at intermediate winter minimum temperatures. Patterns identified in families representing different growth forms varied to those observed for all species analysed together.

Conclusions: Strong links between FD and climate could mean significant shifts in the FD of ecosystems with climate change. Monitoring changes in FD and associated ecosystem functions requires a detailed understanding of FD, which we begin to develop in this study.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Hutchinson's niche, hypervolume, macroecology, plant diversity, species traits, functional diversity, species distribution models, plants
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Environmental management
Research Field:Conservation and biodiversity
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Terrestrial biodiversity
UTAS Author:Adams, V (Associate Professor Vanessa Adams)
ID Code:145513
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:8
Deposited By:Geography and Spatial Science
Deposited On:2021-07-25
Last Modified:2021-09-27

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