Functional trait trade-off and species abundance: insights from a multi-decadal study

Xing Yue M. Ge, Joshua P. Scholl, Ursula Basinger, Travis E. Huxman, D. Lawrence Venable

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Phylogenetically informed trait comparisons across entire communities show promise in advancing community ecology. We use this approach to better understand the composition of a community of winter annual plants with multiple decades of monitoring and detailed morphological, phenological and physiological measurements. Previous research on this system revealed a physiological trade-off among dominant species that accurately predicts population and community dynamics. Here we expanded our investigation to 51 species, representing 96% of individual plants recorded over 30 years, and analysed trait relationships in the context of species abundance and phylogenetic relationships. We found that the functional-trait trade-off scales to the entire community, albeit with diminished strength. It is strongest for dominant species and weakens as progressively rarer species are included. The trade-off has been consistently expressed over three decades of environmental change despite some turnover in the identity of dominant species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-592
Number of pages10
JournalEcology letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Abundance
  • annual plants
  • coexistence
  • community phylogenetics
  • functional traits
  • macroecology
  • physiological trade-offs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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