Global plant trait relationships extend to the climatic extremes of the tundra biome

H. J.D. Thomas, A. D. Bjorkman, I. H. Myers-Smith, S. C. Elmendorf, J. Kattge, S. Diaz, M. Vellend, D. Blok, J. H.C. Cornelissen, B. C. Forbes, G. H.R. Henry, R. D. Hollister, S. Normand, J. S. Prevéy, C. Rixen, G. Schaepman-Strub, M. Wilmking, S. Wipf, W. K. Cornwell, P. S.A. BeckD. Georges, S. J. Goetz, K. C. Guay, N. Rüger, N. A. Soudzilovskaia, M. J. Spasojevic, J. M. Alatalo, H. D. Alexander, A. Anadon-Rosell, S. Angers-Blondin, M. te Beest, L. T. Berner, R. G. Björk, A. Buchwal, A. Buras, M. Carbognani, K. S. Christie, L. S. Collier, E. J. Cooper, B. Elberling, A. Eskelinen, E. R. Frei, O. Grau, P. Grogan, M. Hallinger, M. M.P.D. Heijmans, L. Hermanutz, J. M.G. Hudson, J. F. Johnstone, K. Hülber, M. Iturrate-Garcia, C. M. Iversen, F. Jaroszynska, E. Kaarlejarvi, A. Kulonen, L. J. Lamarque, T. C. Lantz, E. Lévesque, C. J. Little, A. Michelsen, A. Milbau, J. Nabe-Nielsen, S. S. Nielsen, J. M. Ninot, S. F. Oberbauer, J. Olofsson, V. G. Onipchenko, A. Petraglia, S. B. Rumpf, R. Shetti, J. D.M. Speed, K. N. Suding, K. D. Tape, M. Tomaselli, A. J. Trant, U. A. Treier, M. Tremblay, S. E. Venn, T. Vowles, S. Weijers, P. A. Wookey, T. J. Zamin, M. Bahn, B. Blonder, P. M. van Bodegom, B. Bond-Lamberty, G. Campetella, B. E.L. Cerabolini, F. S. Chapin, J. M. Craine, M. Dainese, W. A. Green, S. Jansen, M. Kleyer, P. Manning, Niinemets, Y. Onoda, W. A. Ozinga, J. Peñuelas, P. Poschlod, P. B. Reich, B. Sandel, B. S. Schamp, S. N. Sheremetiev, F. T. de Vries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The majority of variation in six traits critical to the growth, survival and reproduction of plant species is thought to be organised along just two dimensions, corresponding to strategies of plant size and resource acquisition. However, it is unknown whether global plant trait relationships extend to climatic extremes, and if these interspecific relationships are confounded by trait variation within species. We test whether trait relationships extend to the cold extremes of life on Earth using the largest database of tundra plant traits yet compiled. We show that tundra plants demonstrate remarkably similar resource economic traits, but not size traits, compared to global distributions, and exhibit the same two dimensions of trait variation. Three quarters of trait variation occurs among species, mirroring global estimates of interspecific trait variation. Plant trait relationships are thus generalizable to the edge of global trait-space, informing prediction of plant community change in a warming world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1351
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 12 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Additional data and contributions were provided by L. Andreu-Hayles, O. Atkin, A. Blach Overgaard, J. Dickie, S. Dullinger, B. Enquist, J. Fang, K. Fleischer, H. Ford, G. Freschet, E. Garnier, R. Halfdan Jørgensen, K. Harper, S. Harrison, M. Harze, J. Hille Ris Lambers, R. Jackson, R. Klady, S. Kuleza, A. Lavalle, F. Louault, B. Medlyn, R. Milla, J. Ordonez, C. Pladevall, H. Poorter, C. Price, P. Semenchuk, F. Schweingruber, B. Shipley, A. Siefert, L. Street, J. Tremblay, E. Weiher, C. Wirth, I. Wright and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Seed Information Database (SID). We thank innumerable field technicians, logistics teams, graduate and undergraduate assistants for help with data collection, and parks, wildlife refuges, field stations and the local and indigenous people for the opportunity to conduct research on their land. Thanks to all those that have reviewed this manuscript for their insightful and constructive comments. The project was funded by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (ShrubTundra Project NE/M016323/1 [I.M.-S., H.T., A.B.] and NERC doctoral training partnership grant NE/L002558/1 [H.T.]), and the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig (DFG FZT 118; sTundra working group). The study has been supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits (http://www.try-db. org). The TRY initiative and database is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany. TRY is currently supported by DIVERSITAS/Future Earth and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Authors were supported by: Academy of Finland [A.E.], ArcticNet [E.F., E.L., L.H., O.G.], Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University [J.N.N.], BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship [F.d.V.], Carl Tryggers Stiftelse för Vetenskaplig Forskning and Qatar Petroleum (QUEX-ESC-QP-RD-18/19 [J.M.A.], Carlsberg Foundation [S.N., S.S.N.], Centre d’études nordiques [O.G.], Danish Council for Independent Research-Natural Sciences [S.N., S.S.N.], Danish National Research Foundation [B.E.], Deutsche For-schungsgemeinschaft DFG [N.R., M.D.], Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research [B.B.-L.], EU-F7P INTERACT [A.B.], EU-INTERACT [MH], European Research Council Synergy Grant ERC-2013-SyG-610028 IMBALANCE-P [J.P.], Fonds de recherche du Quebec: Nature et technologies [O.G.], Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions [D.B.], MOBILITY PLUS [A.B.], Montagna di Tor-ricchio Nature Reserve [G.C.], National Aeronautics and Space Administration [S.S.], NASA's Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) [S.J.G., L.T.B.], Natural Environment Research Council (UK) [NE/M019160/1; B.B.], Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada [B.S., E.F., E.L., J.J., M.V., P.M., O.G., P.G., T.Z.], National Science Foundation (USA) [K.G., R.H.; Arctic Natural Sciences program S.J.G, L.T.B], Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research [R.S.], The Niwot Ridge LTER (NSF DEB-1637686) [M.J.S, K.N.S.], Northern Scientific Training Program [O.G.], NWO Earth and Life Sciences (NWO-ALW), project ALWPP.2016.008 [MH], Memorial University [L.H.], Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales [J.M.N.], Polar Continental Shelf Program [E.F., E.L., O.G.], Research Council of Norway [J.S.], Russian Science Foundation, #16-14-10208 [V.O.], Swedish Research Council [D.B., E.K., R.B.], Swiss National Science Foundation [A.K., E.F.], University of Zurich Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiversity [G.S.S.], U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research-Energy Exascale Earth System Model [B.B.L.], U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research-Next-Generation Ecosystem Experiments in the Arctic (NGEE Arctic) [C.I.], University of Zurich Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiversity [M.I.G.], and the Villum Foundation [S.S.N.]. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Crown.


  • Climate
  • Ecosystem
  • Plant Development
  • Plants/classification
  • Tundra

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Journal Article


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