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Morphological traits of the flora of the Canary Islands

Cite this dataset

Hanz, Dagmar Martina (2022). Morphological traits of the flora of the Canary Islands [Dataset]. Dryad.


Aim: Functional traits can help elucidate biogeographical and ecological processes driving assemblage structure. We analysed the functional diversity of plant species of different evolutionary origins across an island archipelago, along environmental gradients and across geological age, to assess functional aspects of island biogeographic theory.

Location: Canary Islands, Spain.

Major taxa studied: Spermatophytes.

Time period: Present-day.

Methods: We collected data for four traits (plant height, leaf length, flower length and fruit length) associated with resource acquisition, competitive ability, reproduction and dispersal ability of 893 endemic, non-endemic native and alien plant species (~43 % of the Canary Island flora) from the literature. Linking these traits to species’ occurrences and composition across a 500 m x 500 m grid, we calculated functional diversity for endemic, non-endemic native and alien assemblages using multi-dimensional functional hypervolumes and related the resulting patterns to climatic (humidity) and island biogeographic (geographical isolation, topographic complexity, geological age) gradients.

Results: Trait space of endemic and non-endemic native species overlapped considerably, while alien species added novel trait combinations, expanding the overall functional space of the Canary Islands. We found that functional diversity of endemic plant assemblages was highest in geographically isolated and humid grid cells. Functional diversity of non-endemic native assemblages was highest in less isolated and humid grid cells. In contrast, functional diversity of alien assemblages was highest in arid ecosystems. Topographic complexity and geological age only had a subordinate effect on functional diversity across floristic groups.

Main conclusions: We found that endemic and non-endemic native island species possess similar traits, while alien species tend to expand functional space in ecosystems where they have been introduced. The spatial distribution of the floristic groups’ functional diversity is very distinct across environmental gradients, indicating that species assemblages of different evolutionary origins functionally thrive in dissimilar habitats.


We collected data on four functional morphological traits that reflect fundamental ecological strategies of plants. Morphological trait data of the respective plant species were collected from literature sources (Hohenester & Welß, 1993; Eggli, 2002; Muer, Sauerbier & Calixto, 2016; Schönfelder & Schönfelder, 2018b, a), extracted from the GIFT database (Weigelt, König & Kreft, 2020), measured on digitised plant specimens stored on JSTOR ( or GBIF ( and extracted from species’ descriptions (Sprague & Hutchinson, 1914; Bramwell, 1972; Hansen, 1972; Stearn, 1972; de Paz, 1973; Wildpret de la Torre, 1973; Bramwell, 1975; Humphries, 1976; de Paz, 1977; La Serna, 1980; La Serna & Wildpret, 1980; del Arco Aguilar & Acebes Ginovés, 1981; de Paz, 1981; Halliday, 1986; Liu, 1986; Mendoza-Heuer, 1987; Galván & Guerra, 1988; Kilian, 1988; Negrín-Sosa & de Paz, 1988; Boyce, 1994; Bramwell, 1995a,b; Scholz & Böcker, 1996; Marrero, Almeida & González-Martín, 1998; Pedrola-Monfort & Caujapé-Castells, 1998; Nogales, Valido, Medina & Delgado, 1999; del Arco Aguilar, 2000; Scholz, Stierstorfer & Gaisberg, 2000; Valcárcel, Alamo, Baudet & Marrero, 2001; Baudet, 2002; Gaisberg & Wagenitz, 2002; Marrero & Navarro, 2003; Montelongo, Bramwell & Fernández-Palacios, 2003; Upson & Andrews, 2003; Chaisongkram & Chantaranothai, 2006; Kyncl, Suda, Wild, Wildová & Herben, 2006; Sandral, Remizowa & Sokoloff, 2006; Alamo, Baudet & Gómez, 2007; Marrero, 2008; Prina & Martinez-Laborde, 2008; Rodríguez, Fariña & Moreno, 2010; Verloove, 2010; Baudet, Rodríguez, & Beaumont, 2013; Gonzáles, Morales Mateos, Gonzáles, & Mesa Coello, 2013; Marrero, 2013; Santos-Guerra, 2014; Vitales et al., 2014; Wood et al., 2015). We collected data on maximum trait values as the maximum better reflects mature species’ fitness and has better data coverage throughout the literature. This is a valid approach as recent studies show that trait data from plant determination books are comparable to measured trait data (Cutts et al., 2021).