Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2024, Vol. 48 ›› Issue (1): 21-40.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2023.0111

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Current and future trends of plant functional traits in macro-ecology

LIU Cong-Cong1,2,3, HE Nian-Peng3,6,*(), LI Ying4, ZHANG Jia-Hui3, YAN Pu3, WANG Ruo-Meng3, WANG Rui-Li5   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Ecology and Environment in Minority Areas (Minzu University of China), National Ethnic Affairs Commission of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing 100081, China
    2College of Life and Environmental Sciences, Minzu University of China, Beijing 100081, China
    3Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    4College of Grassland Science, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
    5College of Forestry, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
    6Earth Critical Zone and Flux Research Station of Xing’an Mountains, Chinese Academy of Science, Tahe, Heilongjiang 165200, China
  • Received:2023-04-24 Accepted:2023-08-09 Online:2024-01-20 Published:2023-08-09
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  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(32201311);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31988102);CAS Project for Young Scientists in Basic Research(YSBR-037);National Science and Technology Basic Resources Survey Program of China(2019FY101300)


Plant functional traits are generally defined as relatively stable and measurable morphological, physiological, and phenological characteristics of plants that can indirectly affect plant growth, reproduction, and survival. Years of development have enabled the standardization of the definition, connotation, and measurement methods of plant functional traits. Now, the intraspecific and interspecific variation, biogeographic patterns, coordination, and the evolution of plant functional traits have been well explored. The gradual development of global plant functional trait databases since the 1990s has led to the expansion of plant functional traits beyond individual and local scales. Regional and global biogeographical studies on plant functional traits are gradually exploring community species coexistence mechanisms and maintenance of ecosystem functions. Researchers have found that traditional plant trait databases, which were created from published studies, have insufficient data to provide answers to questions about natural ecosystems. Therefore, constructing a plant trait database that considers compatibility and orderliness is crucial. As new databases and scientific concepts have emerged, the following areas have become the focus of studies on plant functional traits: 1) coordination between functional traits of different plant organs, and holistic examination of plant response to environmental changes; 2) multi-dimensional response and adaptation of various plant functional traits, and proposal of the concept of a plant trait network; 3) consideration of the complexity of plant community structure, and exploration of community assembly using plant functional diversity and trait moments; and 4) refinement of the scaling method for different levels of ecological organization, and recognition of plant community and ecosystem traits as critical bridges between plant traits and macroecology. These directions have pushed for the application of traditional functional trait research to natural, social, and economic systems, thus promoting the rapid development of trait-based studies to further solve regional eco-environmental problems.

Key words: trait, functional trait, plant community trait, functional trait network, biogeographical pattern, adaptation, response