Which is a better predictor of plant traits: Temperature or precipitation?

Angela T. Moles, Sarah E. Perkins, Shawn W. Laffan, Habacuc Flores-Moreno, Monica Awasthy, Marianne L. Tindall, Lawren Sack, Andy Pitman, Jens Kattge, Lonnie W. Aarssen, Madhur Anand, Michael Bahn, Benjamin Blonder, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, J. Hans C Cornelissen, Will K. Cornwell, Sandra Díaz, John B. Dickie, Grégoire T. Freschet, Joshua G. GriffithsAlvaro G. Gutierrez, Frank A. Hemmings, Thomas Hickler, Timothy D. Hitchcock, Matthew Keighery, Michael Kleyer, Hiroko Kurokawa, Michelle R. Leishman, Kenwin Liu, Ülo Niinemets, Vladimir Onipchenko, Yusuke Onoda, Josep Penuelas, Valério D. Pillar, Peter B. Reich, Satomi Shiodera, Andrew Siefert, Enio E. Sosinski, Nadejda A. Soudzilovskaia, Emily K. Swaine, Nathan G. Swenson, Peter M. van Bodegom, Laura Warman, Evan Weiher, Ian J. Wright, Hongxiang Zhang, Martin Zobel, Stephen P. Bonser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Question: Are plant traits more closely correlated with mean annual temperature, orwithmean annual precipitation? Location: Global. Methods: We quantified the strength of the relationships between temperature and precipitation and 21 plant traits from 447,961 species-site combinations worldwide. We used meta-analysis to provide an overall answer to our question. Results: Mean annual temperature was significantly more strongly correlated with plant traits than was mean annual precipitation. Conclusions: Our study provides support for some of the assumptions of classical vegetation theory, and points to many interesting directions for future research. The relatively low R2 values for precipitation might reflect the weak link betweenmean annual precipitation and the availability of water to plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1167-1180
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 International Association for Vegetation Science.


  • Climate
  • Compound leaves
  • Dispersal syndrome
  • Functional traits
  • Leaf life span
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Photosynthetic pathway
  • Plant height
  • Plant life span
  • Seed mass
  • Specific leaf area
  • Spinescence


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