Plant Ecology

, Volume 217, Issue 11, pp 1297–1306 | Cite as

Predicting plant trait similarity along environmental gradients

  • Lauchlan H. FraserEmail author
  • Heath W. Garris
  • Cameron N. Carlyle


Plant traits affect the success or failure of plants to establish, grow, and reproduce. Although we have an increased understanding of certain individual plant traits and their relative effects on performance and fitness, it is a challenge to predict relative similarity of traits between neighbouring plants. Assembly rules suggest that abiotic filters will restrict the range of viable strategies, thus creating a community of plants that share a similar suite of traits. In contrast, limiting similarity predicts that segregation of species’ resource use will lead to character displacement. What is the relative strength of these two processes and do they differ depending on site condition? We know that trait similarity of plants can vary with site productivity and disturbance. In this study, we investigate the interaction of these two ecological factors and how they affect plant trait similarity. We find support for the hypothesis that trait convergence occurs at low productivity/high disturbance and high productivity/low disturbance, and trait dispersion is most likely at intermediate levels of disturbance and productivity. The relationships among evolution, plant traits, and ecology are multivariate, hierarchical, and complex making plant traits at the ecosystem level an exciting and challenging agenda for the future.


Plant traits Community assembly Vegetation Limiting similarity 



The ideas developed here benefited from discussions with Roy Turkington. This work was supported through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant and a Canada Research Chair to L. Fraser.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lauchlan H. Fraser
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heath W. Garris
    • 1
  • Cameron N. Carlyle
    • 2
  1. 1.Natural Resource SciencesThompson Rivers UniversityKamloopsCanada
  2. 2.Agricultural, Food and Nutritional ScienceUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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