Global relationships in tree functional traits

Daniel S. Maynard*, Lalasia Bialic-Murphy, Constantin M. Zohner, Colin Averill, Johan van den Hoogen, Haozhi Ma, Lidong Mo, Gabriel Reuben Smith, Alicia T.R. Acosta, Isabelle Aubin, Erika Berenguer, Coline C.F. Boonman, Jane A. Catford, Bruno E.L. Cerabolini, Arildo S. Dias, Andrés González-Melo, Peter Hietz, Christopher H. Lusk, Akira S. Mori, Ülo NiinemetsValério D. Pillar, Bruno X. Pinho, Julieta A. Rosell, Frank M. Schurr, Serge N. Sheremetev, Ana Carolina da Silva, Ênio Sosinski, Peter M. van Bodegom, Evan Weiher, Gerhard Bönisch, Jens Kattge, Thomas W. Crowther

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Due to massive energetic investments in woody support structures, trees are subject to unique physiological, mechanical, and ecological pressures not experienced by herbaceous plants. Despite a wealth of studies exploring trait relationships across the entire plant kingdom, the dominant traits underpinning these unique aspects of tree form and function remain unclear. Here, by considering 18 functional traits, encompassing leaf, seed, bark, wood, crown, and root characteristics, we quantify the multidimensional relationships in tree trait expression. We find that nearly half of trait variation is captured by two axes: one reflecting leaf economics, the other reflecting tree size and competition for light. Yet these orthogonal axes reveal strong environmental convergence, exhibiting correlated responses to temperature, moisture, and elevation. By subsequently exploring multidimensional trait relationships, we show that the full dimensionality of trait space is captured by eight distinct clusters, each reflecting a unique aspect of tree form and function. Collectively, this work identifies a core set of traits needed to quantify global patterns in functional biodiversity, and it contributes to our fundamental understanding of the functioning of forests worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3185
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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