Deconstructing functional trait variation and co-variation across a wide range of environmental conditions is necessary to increase the mechanistic understanding of community assembly processes and improve current parameterization of dynamic vegetation models. Here, we present a study that deconstructs leaf trait variation and co-variation into within-species, taxonomic-, and plot-environment components along three tropical environmental gradients in Peru, Brazil, and Ghana. To do so, we measured photosynthetic, chemical, and structural leaf traits using a standardized sampling protocol for more than 1,000 individuals belonging to 367 species. Variation associated with the taxonomic component (species + genus + family) for most traits was relatively consistent across environmental gradients, but within-species variation and plot-environment variation was strongly dependent on the environmental gradient. Trait-trait co-variation was strongly linked to the environmental gradient where traits were measured, although some traits had consistent co-variation components irrespective of gradient. Our results demonstrate that filtering along these tropical gradients is mostly expressed through trait taxonomic variation, but that trait co-variation is strongly dependent on the local environment, and thus global trait co-variation relationships might not always apply at smaller scales and may quickly change under future climate scenarios.
- environmental filtering
- trait covariation
- variance partitioning
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)