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CONFERENCE: Trait variation and integration across scales in tropical and temperate trees: Exploring the potential and limits of trait-based ecology.
Conference by Dr. Julie Messier (post-doctoral researcher at Université de Sherbrooke & CNRS):
"Trait variation and integration across scales in tropical and temperate trees: Exploring the potential and limits of trait-based ecology"
The trait-based approach has taken an increasingly central role in plant ecology in the last decade. Its increasing popularity is partly based on its promises of generality and predictability. As the field is rapidly expanding, it has become increasingly important to validate those promises and to test the fundamental assumptions underpinning the trait-based approach.
I present work explores the limits of this approach, specifically in terms of the invariance of trait correlations across biological scales and in terms of phenotypic complexity. I present three studies asking: (i) Are trait dimensions independent? ; (ii) What are the roles of constraints, the environment and phylogeny in shaping intraspecific trait correlation patterns ?; and (iii) How well do traits predict plant performance? We find that trait dimensions are not independent, that trait relationships differ across biological scales and that many traits and their interaction are necessary to predict plant performance.
We conclude that while traits are a powerful approach to ecology, given their complexity they may not be a shortcut to ecology.