BES Forest Ecology Group

A British Ecological Society Special Interest Group

New Phytol Symposium – Trait covariation: Structural and functional relationships in plant ecology

Exeter, UK 27–29 June 2017


Field ecologists and ecosystem modellers share a
common challenge – simplifying structural and
functional attributes of ecosystems while accurately
capturing the diversity observed in nature. Achieving a
balance between these goals, and improving the
predictability of the terrestrial biosphere, has spawned
advances and debate. An exciting field of research is
being forged at the intersection of plant ecology and
ecosystem modelling, where both communities are
seeking to understand and harness covariation among
plant traits. A significant and ongoing challenge is
ensuring an adequate dialogue between empiricists and
modellers; such dialogue is needed if we are to capitalize
on the insights derived in this field and use them to
reshape our understanding of patterns and processes in
the natural world.
In this symposium we will bring together these two
communities, and their respective challenges, and
discuss a vision for how plant traits, both above- and
below-ground, can facilitate the development of the
‘plant economics spectrum’ paradigm. Central to this is
an overarching need to identify traits of interest,
compile them into accessible databases that become
community resources, and then provide tools for
evaluating trait relationships with plant function. These
capabilities facilitate understanding fundamental
tradeoffs and the role played by genetics, climate, and
soils in global patterns of emergent trait covariation.
Armed with this knowledge, one can implement traitenabled
approaches to modelling ecosystem function,
which allows communities to be assembled based on
how plants with different trait combinations perform
under a given set of environmental conditions. Pursuing
trait covariation and trait-enabled modelling will provide
opportunities for fruitful collaboration between field
ecologists and ecosystem modellers. The timing for this
symposium recognises that this field is still in its infancy
and there will be much discussion in the coming years as
the scientific community decides how best to integrate
traits into concepts of ecosystem structure.


The symposium will take place over three days at the
University of Exeter. There will be dedicated time for
discussions, posters, selected poster talks, an excursion
to Dartmoor National Park and a symposium dinner.

Complete details and registration at

New phytol

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This entry was posted on August 4, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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