Local conditions shape plant communities

December 13, 2018 by Evelyn S. Gonzalez, Florida International University
Credit: Florida International University

The local environment plays a key role in determining what kinds of plants grow there, according to a new study that could change how threatened species are managed.

Florida International University botanist Christopher Baraloto and a team of researchers found local conditions, including soil, the interaction of and animals, and disturbances, are more important than climate and other landscape conditions in the development of plant size, leaf size, leaf shape and other traits. The information refines scientists' ability to predict where plants can grow and how they might respond to , deforestation and other global changes.

"The study is exciting because it confirms, at a large scale, the need to consider local when decoding what drives local plant community composition," said Baraloto, co-author of the study and director of the International Center for Tropical Botany at The Kampong.

The study was led by Martin Luther University of Halle-Witenberg and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Germany. The included 105 researchers from more than 90 universities. They relied on data from more than 1.1 million vegetation plots spanning 50,000 plant species.

The International Center for Tropical Botany at The Kampong, a collaboration between FIU and the National Tropical Botanical Garden, is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of tropical plants through research, education and outreach.

Explore further: Ecologist suggests wild approach to selling threatened plants

More information: Helge Bruelheide et al. Global trait–environment relationships of plant communities, Nature Ecology & Evolution (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41559-018-0699-8

Related Stories

Downed trees not necessarily a lost cause

September 19, 2017

Among the devastation wrought by Hurricane Irma last week, many downed trees and uprooted plants were left in the storm's wake. Those in a rush to get things back to normal have been quick to break out the chainsaws and remove ...

Animals and plants jointly coexist

August 14, 2018

The tropical rainforest, with its permanently wet climate, brims over with an abundance of plant species. Flowers of all sizes with shallow to deep tubes offer a wide variety of food sources to pollinators. Sunbirds, for ...

New tool to predict which plants will become invasive

November 8, 2018

Around the world, over 13,000 plant species have embedded themselves in new environments—some of them integrate with the native plants, but others spread aggressively. Understanding why some plants become invasive, while ...

Recommended for you

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.