The Influence of Taxonomy and Environment on Leaf Trait Variation Along Tropical Abiotic Gradients

Imma Oliveras, Lisa Bentley, Nikolaos M. Fyllas, Agne Gvozdevaite, Alexander Frederick Shenkin, Theresa Peprah, Paulo Morandi, Karine Silva Peixoto, Mickey Boakye, Stephen Adu-Bredu, Beatriz Schwantes Marimon, Ben Hur Marimon Junior, Norma Salinas, Roberta Martin, Gregory Asner, Sandra Díaz, Brian J. Enquist, Yadvinder Malhi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number18
JournalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020


  • environmental filtering
  • interspecific
  • intraspecific
  • trait covariation
  • variance partitioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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