The complexity of trait-environment performance landscapes in a local subtropical forest”
- That functional traits should affect individual performance and, in turn, determine fitness and population growth, is a foundational assumption of trait‐based ecology. This assumption is, however, not supported by a strong empirical base.
- Here, we measured simultaneously two individual performance metrics (survival and growth), seven traits and 10 environmental properties for each of 3981 individuals of 205 species in a 50‐ha stem‐mapped subtropical forest. We then modelled survival/growth as a function of traits, environments and trait × environment interactions, and quantified their relative importance at both the species and individual levels.
- We found evidence of alternative functional designs and multiple performance peaks along environmental gradients, indicating the presence of complicated trait × environment interactions. However, such interactions were relatively unimportant in our site, which had relatively low environmental variations. Moreover, individual performance was not better predicted, and trait × environment interactions were not more likely detected, at the individual level than at the species level.
- Although the trait × environment interactions might be safely ignored in relatively homogeneous environments, we encourage future studies to test the interactive effects of traits and environments on individual performances