The global spectrum of plant form and function

Sandra Díaz, Jens Kattge, Johannes H C Cornelissen, Ian J. Wright, Sandra Lavorel, Stéphane Dray, Björn Reu, Michael Kleyer, Christian Wirth, I. Colin Prentice, Eric Garnier, Gerhard Bönisch, Mark Westoby, Hendrik Poorter, Peter B. Reich, Angela T. Moles, John Dickie, Andrew N. Gillison, Amy E. Zanne, Jérôme ChaveS. Joseph Wright, Serge N. Sheremet Ev, Hervé Jactel, Christopher Baraloto, Bruno Cerabolini, Simon Pierce, Bill Shipley, Donald Kirkup, Fernando Casanoves, Julia S. Joswig, Angela Günther, Valeria Falczuk, Nadja Rüger, Miguel D. Mahecha, Lucas D. Gorné

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

766 Scopus citations


Earth is home to a remarkable diversity of plant forms and life histories, yet comparatively few essential trait combinations have proved evolutionarily viable in today € s terrestrial biosphere. By analysing worldwide variation in six major traits critical to growth, survival and reproduction within the largest sample of vascular plant species ever compiled, we found that occupancy of six-dimensional trait space is strongly concentrated, indicating coordination and trade-offs. Three-quarters of trait variation is captured in a two-dimensional global spectrum of plant form and function. One major dimension within this plane reflects the size of whole plants and their parts; the other represents the leaf economics spectrum, which balances leaf construction costs against growth potential. The global plant trait spectrum provides a backdrop for elucidating constraints on evolution, for functionally qualifying species and ecosystems, and for improving models that predict future vegetation based on continuous variation in plant form and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-171
Number of pages5
Issue number7585
StatePublished - Jan 14 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We are grateful to the many researchers who contributed to this study by making their data available, helping to check information, and/ or providing comments at various stages. The study was supported by the TRY initiative on plant traits ( The TRY database is hosted at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (Jena, Germany) and supported by DIVERSITAS/Future Earth, the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, and BACI (grant ID 640176). The study has also been partially supported by the following institutions and grants to S.Di.: Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and CONICET, FONCyT (PICT 554) and SECyT (Argentina), The Leverhulme Trust, UK, and Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) SGP-CRA2015 (supported by US National Science Foundation grant GEO-1138881).

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