Variation in observable traits

Call for Papers: Intraspecific variation in plant functional traits for Annals of Botany

Special Issue Guest Editors:
Dr. Kasey Barton, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Dr. Andrea Westerband, Macquarie University, Australia
Dr. Jennifer Funk, Chapman University, California

Plant functional trait analysis has emerged as a widespread approach aimed at revealing mechanisms underlying stress tolerance, species distributions and niche space, species interactions, community assembly, and ecosystem dynamics. Functional ecologists commonly quantify traits at the species level based on the assumption that interspecific variation is a stronger driver of biological processes than intraspecific variation. This is despite the widely documented phenotypic variation that exists within species. Over the last ten years, there has been a renewed interest in understanding the role of intraspecific trait variation for ecological processes. Plant functional traits can vary considerably within species, as a result of genetic diversity, variation in abiotic and biotic factors, and ontogeny, and due to interactions among these factors. For example, functional traits may vary across space due to environmental heterogeneity and underlying phenotypic plasticity or local adaptation.

While species means may facilitate characterizations of trait dimensions at the global scale, it obscures important variation driving processes that occur at the local scale. For example, biological invasion, climate change tolerance, and coevolutionary dynamics, all occur at the scale of populations and would benefit from a shift in focus away from species means to consider within-species variation in functional traits. Traits may also vary over time, due to developmentally regulated (i.e. ontogenetic) shifts in trait expression. Linking this ontogenetic trait variation to plant performance can provide insights into demographic processes and allow for the identification of interactions and stages that most limit population growth and stability. The characterization of ontogenetic shifts in plant traits may also shed light on trait evolution, elucidating stages at which links with fitness are strong and likely under selection pressure from abiotic and/or biotic sources.

Intraspecific trait variation also impacts processes at the community- and ecosystem scale. For example, trait variation within and among individuals can influence tissue decomposability and subsequent feedbacks on carbon and nitrogen cycling. Understanding intra-specific trait variation has applied value as well. Identifying populations or genotypes with certain trait values (e.g., fast growth, drought tolerance, early flowering) could enhance restoration efforts in areas experiencing pressure from fast-growing invasive species and changes in environmental factors due to global change.

Intraspecific variation in observable traits, such as leaf shape, size, colour, and pubescence, has been observed widely across plants (as in the endemic Hawaiian keystone tree, Metrosideros polymorpha, shown below; unpublished data Westerband and Barton).

Variation in observable traits

Annals of Botany will release a Special Issue on Intraspecific Variation in Plant Functional Traits in 2021 to provide a broad synthesis of how intraspecific trait variation can contribute to a better understanding of plants across these multiple scales, from gene expression and within-plant variation, to species interactions, to population, community, and ecosystem dynamics. Guest editors will be Kasey Barton, Andrea Westerband, and Jennifer Funk. This is also an open call for submission of additional papers to be considered for inclusion in the Special Issue, following the usual peer-review process. All types of papers (primary research articles, reviews, viewpoints, research-in-context) are welcome. If you would like your manuscript to be considered for inclusion in the Special Issue, please send an outline of your paper (authors, title, and abstract) to before October 1, 2019 in order to be considered. The deadline for manuscript submission is December 1, 2019.

Recently published papers of related interest:

Fallon J Hayes, Serra W Buchanan, Brent Coleman, Andrew M Gordon, Peter B Reich, Naresh V Thevathasan, Ian J Wright, Adam R Martin, Intraspecific variation in soy across the leaf economics spectrum, Annals of Botany, Volume 123, Issue 1, 1 January 2019, Pages 107–120,

François Vasseur, Kevin Sartori, Etienne Baron, Florian Fort, Elena Kazakou, Jules Segrestin, Eric Garnier, Denis Vile, Cyrille Violle, Climate as a driver of adaptive variations in ecological strategies in Arabidopsis thaliana, Annals of Botany, Volume 122, Issue 6, 2 November 2018, Pages 935–945,

João Costa e Silva, Peter A Harrison, Robert Wiltshire, Brad M Potts, Evidence that divergent selection shapes a developmental cline in a forest tree species complex, Annals of Botany, Volume 122, Issue 1, 1 July 2018, Pages 181–194,

Dong He, Yongfa Chen, Kangning Zhao, J H C Cornelissen, Chengjin Chu, Intra- and interspecific trait variations reveal functional relationships between specific leaf area and soil niche within a subtropical forest, Annals of Botany, Volume 121, Issue 6, 11 May 2018, Pages 1173–1182,

Lahcen Benomar, Mohammed S Lamhamedi, Steeve Pepin, André Rainville, Marie-Claude Lambert, Hank A Margolis, Jean Bousquet, Jean Beaulieu, Thermal acclimation of photosynthesis and respiration of southern and northern white spruce seed sources tested along a regional climatic gradient indicates limited potential to cope with temperature warming, Annals of Botany, Volume 121, Issue 3, 16 February 2018, Pages 443–457,

Conchita Alonso, Ricardo Pérez, Pilar Bazaga, Mónica Medrano, Carlos M Herrera, Within-plant variation in seed size and inflorescence fecundity is associated with epigenetic mosaicism in the shrub Lavandula latifolia (Lamiaceae), Annals of Botany, Volume 121, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 153–160,

Roxane Delle-Vedove, Bertrand Schatz, Mathilde Dufay, Understanding intraspecific variation of floral scent in light of evolutionary ecology, Annals of Botany, Volume 120, Issue 1, July 2017, Pages 1–20,

Jane E. Carlson, Christopher A. Adams, Kent E. Holsinger, Intraspecific variation in stomatal traits, leaf traits and physiology reflects adaptation along aridity gradients in a South African shrub, Annals of Botany, Volume 117, Issue 1, January 2016, Pages 195–207,

Marilyne Laurans, Gregoire Vincent, Are inter- and intraspecific variations of sapling crown traits consistent with a strategy promoting light capture in tropical moist forest?, Annals of Botany, Volume 118, Issue 5, October 2016, Pages 983–996,

Kateřina Jandová, Petr Dostál, Tomáš Cajthaml, Zdeněk Kameník, Intraspecific variability in allelopathy of Heracleum mantegazzianum is linked to the metabolic profile of root exudates, Annals of Botany, Volume 115, Issue 5, April 2015, Pages 821–831,

Alex Assiry

Alex Assiry is an editorial assistant in the Annals of Botany Office. When not working, Alex listens for the opportunity to help.

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