Vegetation response to climate change: a functional traits-based approach
Nicola Kühn ‘s DPhil research investigates the role that traits play in determining vegetation response to climate change with a specific focus in South Africa and on root traits. This work includes three primary objectives:
Objective 1: To identify through a systematic review of literature whether current studies indicate a global, general set of trait-environment relationships that underlie positive species responses to climate and associated environmental change. To fulfil this objective, we pose the following research questions:
- Which are the top traits across both biomes and climate/environmental changes that mediate positive responses in terms of plant fitness and performance to climate change?
- What are the attributes (values or states) of these traits that confer a positive plant response to climate change?
- Do these trait attributes vary across biomes and climate/environmental changes?
Objective 2: To quantify trait variation of below and aboveground traits across water availability gradients in woody Fynbos shrubs of South Africa. To fulfil this objective, we pose the following research questions:
- How do traits vary across water availability gradients (precipitation and topography)?
- Do we observe intraspecific trait variation across these water availability gradients?
- How do dominant traits in recently burnt vegetation differ from more mature/unburnt vegetation?
- How important are root traits in overall trait variation across these water availability gradients?
- Is the belowground vs aboveground investment different in drier conditions?
Objective 3: To determine whether deeper roots are associated with lower vegetation sensitivity (VSI) to climate in South Africa. To fulfil this objective, we pose the following research questions:
- What is the relationship between root depth and VSI and, coefficient T-1 (climate conditions a month before)?
- How does this relationship vary across different biomes?
- In areas where root depth and VSI have an expected negative trend or CT-1 an expected positive trend, is there a decoupling in the relationship between EVI and precipitation?