Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Decoding plant communities across scales

Characteristics shared by different plant species can be used to decipher where they are found in nature. A new global analysis indicates that using this code to understand what shapes plant communities must consider spatial scale.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: How spatial scale affects functional trait relationships.

NASA (satellite image), E. Damschen (local community photo, Fort Stewart, GA, USA).


  1. Bruelheide, H. et al. Nat. Ecol. Evol. (2018).

  2. Lavorel, S. & Garnier, E. Funct. Ecol. 16, 545–556 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Lavorel, S. et al. in Terrestrial Ecosystems in a Changing World (eds Canadell, J. G., Pataki, D. & Pitelka, L.) Ch. 13, 149–160 (Springer-Verlag, 2007).

  4. Diaz, S. et al. Nature 529, 167–173 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Wright, I. J. et al. Nature 428, 821–827 (2004).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Shipley, B. et al. Oecologia 180, 923–931 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Reich, P. B. J. Ecol. 102, 275–301 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Kattge, J. et al. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 2905–2935 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Open Traits (accessed 25 October 2018);

  10. Data ONE (accessed 25 October 2018);

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ellen I. Damschen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Damschen, E.I. Decoding plant communities across scales. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1844–1845 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing