New handbook for standardised measurement of plant functional traits worldwide

N. Pérez-Harguindeguy, S. Díaz, E. Garnier, S. Lavorel, H. Poorter, P. Jaureguiberry, M. S. Bret-Harte, W. K. Cornwell, J. M. Craine, D. E. Gurvich, C. Urcelay, E. J. Veneklaas, P. B. Reich, L. Poorter, I. J. Wright, P. Ray, L. Enrico, J. G. Pausas, A. C. De Vos, N. BuchmannG. Funes, F. Quétier, J. G. Hodgson, K. Thompson, H. D. Morgan, H. Ter Steege, M. G.A. Van Der Heijden, L. Sack, B. Blonder, P. Poschlod, M. V. Vaieretti, G. Conti, A. C. Staver, S. Aquino, J. H.C. Cornelissen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2926 Scopus citations


Plant functional traits are the features (morphological, physiological, phenological) that represent ecological strategies and determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels and influence ecosystem properties. Variation in plant functional traits, and trait syndromes, has proven useful for tackling many important ecological questions at a range of scales, giving rise to a demand for standardised ways to measure ecologically meaningful plant traits. This line of research has been among the most fruitful avenues for understanding ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes. It also has the potential both to build a predictive set of local, regional and global relationships between plants and environment and to quantify a wide range of natural and human-driven processes, including changes in biodiversity, the impacts of species invasions, alterations in biogeochemical processes and vegetation-atmosphere interactions. The importance of these topics dictates the urgent need for more and better data, and increases the value of standardised protocols for quantifying trait variation of different species, in particular for traits with power to predict plant-and ecosystem-level processes, and for traits that can be measured relatively easily. Updated and expanded from the widely used previous version, this handbook retains the focus on clearly presented, widely applicable, step-by-step recipes, with a minimum of text on theory, and not only includes updated methods for the traits previously covered, but also introduces many new protocols for further traits. This new handbook has a better balance between whole-plant traits, leaf traits, root and stem traits and regenerative traits, and puts particular emphasis on traits important for predicting species' effects on key ecosystem properties. We hope this new handbook becomes a standard companion in local and global efforts to learn about the responses and impacts of different plant species with respect to environmental changes in the present, past and future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-234
Number of pages68
JournalAustralian Journal of Botany
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This contribution was funded, in part, by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN 2015 and SGP-CRA2015, which were supported by US National Science Foundation Grants GEO-0452325 and GEO-1138881 The work was also funded by FONCyT (PICT 20441 and 365), CONICET (PIP 2006-2011 11220080101532), SECYT-Universidad Nacional de Córdoba – Argentina, and the US NSF (DEB-0620652). The authors particularly thank Phil Grime and the UCPE–University of Sheffield, and Mark Westoby and the ARC–NZ Network of Vegetation Function–Macquarie University, for inspiring discussion and development of trait measurement. The authors also thank Marcelo Cabido, William Bond, Paula Tecco, Fernando Casanoves and Bryan Finegan for valuable discussions. The authors thank Diana Abal Solis and Juan Pablo Bellini for assistance with figures and diagrams and Valeria Falczuk for technical assistance in the laboratory. The authors appreciate helpful comments of Adrienne Nicotra, Hans Lambers and one anonymous reviewer, which greatly improved the quality of the manuscript. Many users of the previous handbook gave useful feedback on trait measurements. Finally, we thank plant species around the world for beginning to give away the secrets of their functioning and ecosystem-level impacts.


  • biodiversity
  • ecophysiology
  • ecosystem dynamics
  • ecosystem functions
  • environmental change
  • plant morphology.


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