In recent decades, quantitative trait-based models have been used to predict how plant communities develop under variable environmental conditions. Trait values obtained from mature plants are typically used to inform such models. These values may not be appropriate for understanding the development of restored communities for two reasons: (1) trait values from different populations of a species may vary, and (2) trait values of mature plants may not reflect seedling traits important for establishment and survival. We measured traits (e.g. specific leaf area, leaf dry matter content, root length) of grass and forb species commonly used in arid land restoration from several populations at different developmental stages. We used Bayesian point estimates of population trait means and variability at each ontogenetic stage and compared them to one another as well as to trait values from the TRY Plant Trait Database or values published in the literature. We found that mean trait values as well as population-level trait variability differed by population, trait measured, and ontogenetic stage for all species. In some cases, differences in trait values at specific ontogenetic stages resulted in unique ordering of populations within a species and often trait values of young seedlings differed greatly from those reported in the TRY Plant Trait Database or the literature. Because traits expressed during early stages of plant growth are critical to plant establishment, a better understanding of variation in seedling traits will inform seed source selection for restoration and improve the use of trait-based models for predicting re-vegetation outcomes.
Audio/Video, Conference Presentation, SER2019
Society for Ecological Restoration