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Objective 1

Objective 1: Assessment of long-term historical constraints on global and regional patterns in functional diversity of vascular plants, a key producer group:

Vascular plants constitute a particularly relevant group for studying historical constraints on functional diversity (functional diversity s.s. and functional composition), given their key roles in terrestrial ecosystems. Plants have received particular attention in small-scale experimental studies of biodiversity effects. Large-scale regional effects on plant species diversity have also been documented; notably the research of Jens Christian Svenning has shown that past climate change has elicited severe regional extinctions, and still strongly influence plant species diversity patterns, even penetrating to local scales.

The HISTFUNC project will link several very large data sets on plant species distributions across large regions to large amounts of functional trait data as well as phylogenetic data and geospatial data on current climate and other aspects of the current environment as well as on paleoclimate to assess the extent to which current patterns of plant functional diversity reflect long-term historical constraints. Reflecting data availability, the project will focus on functional diversity for vascular plants across Europe and the New World as well as for palms (2600 species; a functionally highly important group) globally.

Impact: This unprecedented assessment of the importance of historical constraints for plant functional diversity will shed light on key potential pathways by which historical factors may affect functioning of terrestrial ecosystems, namely via effects on plant functional diversity. Its results will also be important for nature management, where plants are emphasized, and may shed light on why ecosystems vary in invasibility.