Linking performance trait stability with species distribution: the case of Artemisia and its close relatives in northern China
Yang XJ et al. 2015
Questions: Understanding the relationships between species and environments is at the heart of ecology and biology. Ranges of species depend strongly on environmental factors, but our limited understanding of the relationships between the range and trait stability of species across environments hampers our ability to predict their future ranges. Species that occur over a wide range (and thus have wide niche breadth) will have high variation in morpho-physiological traits in response to environmental conditions, thereby permitting stability of performance traits and enabling plants to survive in a range of environments. Thus, we hypothesized that species’ niche breadth is negatively correlated with the rate of performance trait change along an environmental gradient.
Location: Northern China
Methods: We analyzed standing biomass and height of 48 species of Asteraceae (Artemisia and its close relatives) collected from 65 sites along an environmental gradient across northern China.
Results: In support of our hypothesis, there were significant negative correlations between climatic niche breadth and rate of change in biomass, a performance trait, but not in height, which is both a morphological and performance trait.
Conclusions: These findings have implications for risk assessment of species under climate change and prediction of unknown distributions of species. They also offer a new avenue of research for species distribution models.