A global meta-analysis of the relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities

Andrew Siefert, Cyrille Violle, Loïc Chalmandrier, Cécile H. Albert, Adrien Taudiere, Alex Fajardo, Lonnie W. Aarssen, Christopher Baraloto, Marcos B. Carlucci, Marcus V. Cianciaruso, Vinícius de L. Dantas, Francesco de Bello, Leandro D.S. Duarte, Carlos R. Fonseca, Grégoire T. Freschet, Stéphanie Gaucherand, Nicolas Gross, Kouki Hikosaka, Benjamin Jackson, Vincent JungChiho Kamiyama, Masatoshi Katabuchi, Steven W. Kembel, Emilie Kichenin, Nathan J.B. Kraft, Anna Lagerström, Yoann Le Bagousse-Pinguet, Yuanzhi Li, Norman Mason, Julie Messier, Tohru Nakashizuka, Jacob Mcc Overton, Duane A. Peltzer, I. M. Pérez-Ramos, Valério D. Pillar, Honor C. Prentice, Sarah Richardson, Takehiro Sasaki, Brandon S. Schamp, Christian Schöb, Bill Shipley, Maja Sundqvist, Martin T. Sykes, Marie Vandewalle, David A. Wardle

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    379 Citations (Scopus)


    Recent studies have shown that accounting for intraspecific trait variation (ITV) may better address major questions in community ecology. However, a general picture of the relative extent of ITV compared to interspecific trait variation in plant communities is still missing. Here, we conducted a meta-analysis of the relative extent of ITV within and among plant communities worldwide, using a data set encompassing 629 communities (plots) and 36 functional traits. Overall, ITV accounted for 25% of the total trait variation within communities and 32% of the total trait variation among communities on average. The relative extent of ITV tended to be greater for whole-plant (e.g. plant height) vs. organ-level traits and for leaf chemical (e.g. leaf N and P concentration) vs. leaf morphological (e.g. leaf area and thickness) traits. The relative amount of ITV decreased with increasing species richness and spatial extent, but did not vary with plant growth form or climate. These results highlight global patterns in the relative importance of ITV in plant communities, providing practical guidelines for when researchers should include ITV in trait-based community and ecosystem studies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1406-1419
    Number of pages14
    JournalEcology Letters
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 2015 Dec


    • Community ecology
    • Functional diversity
    • Interspecific variation
    • Intraspecific variability
    • Leaf trait
    • Plant functional trait
    • Trait-based ecology

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A global meta-analysis of the relative extent of intraspecific trait variation in plant communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this