Global functional variation in alpine vegetation

Research output: Journal contributionsJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


  • Riccardo Testolin
  • Carlos Pérez Carmona
  • Fabio Attorre
  • Peter Borchardt
  • Helge Bruelheide
  • Jiri Dolezal
  • Manfred Finckh
  • Andreas Hemp
  • Ute Jandt
  • Andrei Yu Korolyuk
  • Jonathan Lenoir
  • Natalia Makunina
  • George P. Malanson
  • Ladislav Mucina
  • Jalil Noroozi
  • Arkadiusz Nowak
  • Robert K. Peet
  • Gwendolyn Peyre
  • Francesco Maria Sabatini
  • Jozef Šibík
  • Petr Sklenář
  • Kiril Vassilev
  • Risto Virtanen
  • Susan K. Wiser
  • Evgeny G. Zibzeev
  • Borja Jiménez-Alfaro

Questions: What are the functional trade-offs of vascular plant species in global alpine ecosystems? How is functional variation related to vegetation zones, climatic groups and biogeographic realms? What is the relative contribution of macroclimate and evolutionary history in shaping the functional variation of alpine plant communities?. Location: Global. Methods: We compiled a data set of alpine vegetation with 5,532 geo-referenced plots, 1,933 species and six plant functional traits. We used principal component analysis to quantify functional trade-offs among species and trait probability density to assess the functional dissimilarity of alpine vegetation in different vegetation zones, climatic groups and biogeographic realms. We used multiple regression on distance matrices to model community functional dissimilarity against environmental and phylogenetic dissimilarity, controlling for geographic distance. Results: The first two PCA axes explained 66% of the species’ functional variation and were related to the leaf and stem economic spectra, respectively. Trait probability density was largely independent of vegetation zone and macroclimate but differed across biogeographic realms. The same pattern emerged for both species pool and community levels. The effects of environmental and phylogenetic dissimilarities on community functional dissimilarity had similar magnitude, while the effect of geographic distance was negligible. Conclusions: Plant species in alpine areas reflect the global variation of plant function, but with a predominant role of resource use strategies. Current macroclimate exerts a limited effect on alpine vegetation, mostly acting at the community level in combination with evolutionary history. Global alpine vegetation is functionally unrelated to the vegetation zones in which it is embedded, exhibiting strong functional convergence across regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13000
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number2
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 01.03.2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

GPM was funded by US National Science Foundation award 1853665. JD was funded by the MSMT Inter-Excellence project (LTAUSA18007). LM was funded by the Iluka Chair in Vegetation Science and Biogeography at the Murdoch University. SKW was funded by the NZ Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment's Strategic Science Investment Fund. CPC was funded by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research (PSG293). BJ-A was funded by the Marie Curie Clarín-COFUND programme of the Principality of Asturias-EU (ACB17-26) and the Spanish Research Agency (AEI/ 10.13039/501100011033)." sPlot was funded by the German Research Foundation as one of iDiv's (DFG FZT 118, 202548816) research platforms

This article is a part of the Special Feature Macroecology of vegetation, edited by Meelis Pärtel, Francesco Maria Sabatini, Naia Morueta-Holme, Holger Kreft and Jürgen Dengler.

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