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Data from: Weak whole-plant trait coordination in a seasonally dry South American stressful environment

Cite this dataset

Silva, José L. A. et al. (2017). Data from: Weak whole-plant trait coordination in a seasonally dry South American stressful environment [Dataset]. Dryad.


A core question involving both plant physiology and community ecology is whether traits from different organs are coordinated across species, beyond pairwise trait correlations. The strength of within-community trait coordination has been hypothesized to increase along gradients of environmental harshness, due to the cost of adopting ecological strategies out of the viable niche space supported by the abiotic conditions. We evaluated the strength of trait relationship and coordination in a stressful environment using 21 leaf and stem traits of 21 deciduous and evergreen woody species from a heath vegetation growing on coastal sandy plain in northeastern South America. The study region faces marked dry season, high soil salinity and acidity, and poor nutritional conditions. Results from multiple factor analyses supported two weak and independent axes of trait coordination, which accounted for 25%–29% of the trait variance using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Trait correlations on the multiple factor analyses main axis fit well with the global plant economic spectrum, with species investing in small leaves and dense stems as opposed to species with softer stems and large leaves. The species’ positions on the main functional axis corresponded to the competitor-stress-tolerant side of Grime's CSR triangle of plant strategies. The weak degree of trait coordination displayed by the heath vegetation species contradicted our expectation of high trait coordination in stressful environmental habitats. The distinct biogeographic origins of the species occurring in the study region and the prevalence of a regional environmental filter coupled with local homogeneous conditions could account for prevalence of trait independence we observed.

Usage notes


South America
Northeastern Brazil
Rio Grande do Norte