Coupling spectral and resource-use complementarity in experimental grassland and forest communities

Anna K. Schweiger, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Shan Kothari, Philip A. Townsend, Michael D. Madritch, Jake J. Grossman, Hamed Gholizadeh, Ran Wang, John A. Gamon

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10 Scopus citations


Reflectance spectra provide integrative measures of plant phenotypes by capturing chemical, morphological, anatomical and architectural trait information. Here, we investigate the linkages between plant spectral variation, and spectral and resource-use complementarity that contribute to ecosystem productivity. In both a forest and prairie grassland diversity experiment, we delineated n-dimensional hypervolumes using wavelength bands of reflectance spectra to test the association between the spectral space occupied by individual plants and their growth, as well as between the spectral space occupied by plant communities and ecosystem productivity. We show that the spectral space occupied by individuals increased with their growth, and the spectral space occupied by plant communities increased with ecosystem productivity. Furthermore, ecosystem productivity was better explained by inter-individual spectral complementarity than by the large spectral space occupied by productive individuals. Our results indicate that spectral hypervolumes of plants can reflect ecological strategies that shape community composition and ecosystem function, and that spectral complementarity can reveal resource-use complementarity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20211290
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1958
StatePublished - Sep 8 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
All authors gave final approval for publication and agreed to be held accountable for the work performed therein. Competing interests. We declare we have no competing interests. Funding. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration through the Dimensions of Biodiversity program (DEB-1342872 grant to J.C.B. and S.E.H., DEB-1342778 grant to P.A.T., DEB-1342827 grant to M.D.M., DEB-1342823 grant to J.A.G.), by the Cedar Creek National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research program (NSF grant no. DEB-1234162), the ASCEND Biology Integration Institute (NSF grant no. DBI 2021898); iCORE/AITF (grant nos. G224150012 and 200700172), NSERC (grant no. RGPIN-2015–05129) and CFI (grant no. 26793) grants to J.A.G.; by the University of Minnesota (Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship to S.K. and J.J.G.), and by University of Minnesota’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior (Summer Research, Crosby, Rothman, Wilkie, Anderson and Dayton funds to J.J.G.). A.K.S. acknowledges the support of the Research Priority Program in Global Change and Biodiversity (URPP GCB) at the University of Zürich. Acknowledgements. We would like to thank Brett Fredericksen, Ian Carriere, Erin Murdock, Ripley French and Travis Cobb for help with leaf-level sampling. Thanks also to Etienne Laliberté for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors.


  • ecosystem productivity
  • individual plant growth
  • n-dimensional hypervolume concept
  • optical types
  • spectral types
  • spectroscopy


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