Mapping local and global variability in plant trait distributions

TitleMapping local and global variability in plant trait distributions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBond-Lamberty, Ben
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume114
Number50
Date Published12/2017
Abstract

Our ability to understand and predict the response of ecosystems to a changing environment depends on quantifying vegetation functional diversity. However, representing this diversity at the global scale is challenging. Typically, in Earth system models, characterization of plant diversity has been limited to grouping related species into plant functional types (PFTs), with all trait variation in a PFT collapsed into a single mean value that is applied globally. Using the largest global plant trait database and state of the art Bayesian modeling, we created fine-grained global maps of plant trait distributions that can be applied to Earth system models. Focusing on a set of plant traits closely coupled to photosynthesis and foliar respiration—specific leaf area (SLA) and dry mass-based concentrations of leaf nitrogen (Nm) and phosphorus (Pm), we characterize how traits vary within and among over 50,000 ∼50×50-km cells across the entire vegetated land surface. We do this in several ways—without defining the PFT of each grid cell and using 4 or 14 PFTs; each model’s predictions are evaluated against out-of-sample data. This endeavor advances prior trait mapping by generating global maps that preserve variability across scales by using modern Bayesian spatial statistical modeling in combination with a database over three times larger than that in previous analyses. Our maps reveal that the most diverse grid cells possess trait variability close to the range of global PFT means.

URLhttp://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/11/30/1708984114
DOI10.1073/pnas.1708984114
Funding Program: 
Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Number: 50
Volume: 114

Our ability to understand and predict the response of ecosystems to a changing environment depends on quantifying vegetation functional diversity. However, representing this diversity at the global scale is challenging. Typically, in Earth system models, characterization of plant diversity has been limited to grouping related species into plant functional types (PFTs), with all trait variation in a PFT collapsed into a single mean value that is applied globally. Using the largest global plant trait database and state of the art Bayesian modeling, we created fine-grained global maps of plant trait distributions that can be applied to Earth system models. Focusing on a set of plant traits closely coupled to photosynthesis and foliar respiration—specific leaf area (SLA) and dry mass-based concentrations of leaf nitrogen (Nm) and phosphorus (Pm), we characterize how traits vary within and among over 50,000 ∼50×50-km cells across the entire vegetated land surface. We do this in several ways—without defining the PFT of each grid cell and using 4 or 14 PFTs; each model’s predictions are evaluated against out-of-sample data. This endeavor advances prior trait mapping by generating global maps that preserve variability across scales by using modern Bayesian spatial statistical modeling in combination with a database over three times larger than that in previous analyses. Our maps reveal that the most diverse grid cells possess trait variability close to the range of global PFT means.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1708984114
Year of Publication: 2017
Citation: Bond-Lamberty B. "Mapping local and global variability in plant trait distributions." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2017;114.