A global method for calculating plant CSR ecological strategies applied across biomes world-wide

Simon Pierce, Daniel Negreiros, Bruno E L Cerabolini, Jens Kattge, Sandra Díaz, Michael Kleyer, Bill Shipley, Stuart Joseph Wright, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Vladimir G. Onipchenko, Peter M. van Bodegom, Cedric Frenette-Dussault, Evan Weiher, Bruno X. Pinho, Johannes H C Cornelissen, John Philip Grime, Ken Thompson, Roderick Hunt, Peter J. Wilson, Gabriella BuffaOliver C. Nyakunga, Peter B. Reich, Marco Caccianiga, Federico Mangili, Roberta M. Ceriani, Alessandra Luzzaro, Guido Brusa, Andrew Siefert, Newton P U Barbosa, Francis Stuart Chapin, William K. Cornwell, Jingyun Fang, Geraldo Wilson Fernandez, Eric Garnier, Soizig Le Stradic, Josep Peñuelas, Felipe P L Melo, Antonio Slaviero, Marcelo Tabarelli, Duccio Tampucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


Competitor, stress-tolerator, ruderal (CSR) theory is a prominent plant functional strategy scheme previously applied to local floras. Globally, the wide geographic and phylogenetic coverage of available values of leaf area (LA), leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and specific leaf area (SLA) (representing, respectively, interspecific variation in plant size and conservative vs. acquisitive resource economics) promises the general application of CSR strategies across biomes, including the tropical forests hosting a large proportion of Earth's diversity. We used trait variation for 3068 tracheophytes (representing 198 families, six continents and 14 biomes) to create a globally calibrated CSR strategy calculator tool and investigate strategy–environment relationships across biomes world-wide. Due to disparity in trait availability globally, co-inertia analysis was used to check correspondence between a ‘wide geographic coverage, few traits’ data set and a ‘restricted coverage, many traits’ subset of 371 species for which 14 whole-plant, flowering, seed and leaf traits (including leaf nitrogen content) were available. CSR strategy/environment relationships within biomes were investigated using fourth-corner and RLQ analyses to determine strategy/climate specializations. Strong, significant concordance (RV = 0·597; P < 0·0001) was evident between the 14 trait multivariate space and when only LA, LDMC and SLA were used. Biomes such as tropical moist broadleaf forests exhibited strategy convergence (i.e. clustered around a CS/CSR median; C:S:R = 43:42:15%), with CS-selection associated with warm, stable situations (lesser temperature seasonality), with greater annual precipitation and potential evapotranspiration. Other biomes were characterized by strategy divergence: for example, deserts varied between xeromorphic perennials such as Larrea divaricata, classified as S-selected (C:S:R = 1:99:0%) and broadly R-selected annual herbs (e.g. Claytonia perfoliata; R/CR-selected; C:S:R = 21:0:79%). Strategy convergence was evident for several growth habits (e.g. trees) but not others (forbs). The CSR strategies of vascular plants can now be compared quantitatively within and between biomes at the global scale. Through known linkages between underlying leaf traits and growth rates, herbivory and decomposition rates, this method and the strategy–environment relationships it elucidates will help to predict which kinds of species may assemble in response to changes in biogeochemical cycles, climate and land use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)444-457
Number of pages14
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study has been supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits (www.try-db.org). The TRY initiative and data base is hosted, developed and maintained by J.K. and G. Bönisch (Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany). TRY is/has been supported by DIVERSITAS, IGBP, the Global Land Project, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) through its program QUEST (Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System), the French Foundation for Biodiversity Research (FRB), and GIS ‘Climat, Environnement et Société’ France. We thank Daniel Laughlin, Frédérique Louault, Belinda Medlyn, Julie Messier, Juli Pausas and Ian Wright for contributing data. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2016 British Ecological Society


  • Grime's CSR triangle
  • community assembly
  • comparative ecology
  • plant economics spectrum
  • plant functional type
  • survival strategy
  • universal adaptive strategy theory


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