January 20 2015

11:00 158 Hershey Hall

Nathan Kraft
Department of Biology, University of Maryland

Functional trait differences and the maintenance of diversity in plant communities


Functional traits offer community ecologists a powerful means to predict species responses to changing environmental conditions and to disentangle species dynamics in complex communities. While there has been tremendous growth in this area in recent years, progress is limited by the challenge of connecting functional trait patterns to underlying ecological process. I will present research from two different systems that aims to improve our understanding of how trait differences between species drive the maintenance of diversity in ecological communities. First, I will use spatial and demographic analyses to explore the dynamics of one of the most diverse forest communities in the world, located in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Next, I will introduce a new set of experiments with California annual plants designed to rigorously quantify how trait differences between competitors influence species coexistence. These studies highlight the complex ways in which phenotypic differences between species can shape community assembly, and help to point the way towards a robust and theoretically justified trait-based community ecology.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































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