Variation in habitat suitability does not always relate to variation in species' plant functional traits

Biol Lett. 2010 Feb 23;6(1):120-3. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0669. Epub 2009 Sep 30.


Habitat suitability models, which relate species occurrences to environmental variables, are assumed to predict suitable conditions for a given species. If these models are reliable, they should relate to change in plant growth and function. In this paper, we ask the question whether habitat suitability models are able to predict variation in plant functional traits, often assumed to be a good surrogate for a species' overall health and vigour. Using a thorough sampling design, we show a tight link between variation in plant functional traits and habitat suitability for some species, but not for others. Our contrasting results pave the way towards a better understanding of how species cope with varying habitat conditions and demonstrate that habitat suitability models can provide meaningful descriptions of the functional niche in some cases, but not in others.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / physiology*
  • Ecosystem*
  • France
  • Models, Biological*
  • Plant Development*
  • Species Specificity
  • Switzerland