The global spectrum of plant form and function – capturing essential functional diversity of vascular plants
About the Event:
The idea that the remarkable diversity of plant life on Earth is underpinned by general, simple, recurrent patterns of specialization has a long tradition in ecology. However, until recently it was not possible to test for them at the global scale. Here we present the first quantitative picture of essential functional diversity of vascular plants, based on functional trait theory and enabled by TRY, the worldwide communal database of plant traits. The functional trait space occupied by vascular plants is strongly constrained, and can be captured by a two-dimensional global spectrum of plant form and function. One major dimension within this plane reflects the size of whole plants and their parts; the other represents the leaf economics spectrum. The trait space shows a marked heterogeneity in density of occupation by species, with densely populated “functional hotspots” and sparsely populated “functional coldspots”. The global spectrum of plant form and function provides the widest context so far for empirically examining theories of plant ecological strategies, It also provides a backdrop for charting vegetation responses to past and ongoing environmental changes.
About the Speaker:
Sandra is a Professor of Community and Ecosystem Ecology at Córdoba National University, and a senior member of the National Research Council of Argentina. She founded Núcleo DiverSus on Diversity and Sustainability, and co-founded the Global Communal Plant Trait Initiative TRY. She co-chaired the Global Assessment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. She is a member of the Academies of Science of Argentina, USA, France, Norway and the Developing World, and Foreign Fellow of the British Royal Society. She was awarded the Cozzarelli Prize (2008), the Margalef Prize in Ecology (2017), the Senckenberg Award for Nature Research (2019), the Gunnerus Award in Sustainability Science (2019) and the Princess of Asturias (2019). She is interested in plant functional traits and general patterns of functional specialization, their effects on ecosystem properties and their interactions with global change drivers. She constructed the first global quantitative picture of essential functional diversity of vascular plants –the global spectrum of plant form and function- providing a backdrop for evolutionary, ecological and biogeochemical modelling studies. She has advanced theory and practical implementation of the concept of functional diversity and its effects on ecosystem properties and benefits. She combines her plant ecology studies with interdisciplinary work on how different societies value and reconfigure biological communities and ecosystems.