A test of the fast–slow plant economy hypothesis in a subtropical rain forest

Arthur V. Rodrigues, Fábio F. Pastório, Fábio L. V. Bones, Adriane Esquivel Muelbert, Alexander C. Vibrans, André L. de Gasper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The fast–slow plant economy hypothesis predicts strong co-variation in key resource-use traits due to the trade-off between growth and survival of species. Accordingly, it is expected that trait variation may be reduced to a single dimension along a growth-survival gradient. However, some studies warn against such reductionism and promote investigating how a multi-dimensional trait space can be interpreted in a growth-survival trade-off context.

Aim: To quantify the dimensionality of the trait variation of trees and tree-like species to test the fast–slow plant economy hypothesis in a subtropical rain forest.

Methods: We conducted phylogenetic Principal Components Analyses and correlation test on traits describing carbon and water economy in the leaves, stem, and seeds to evaluate the dimensionality of trait space and covariation among traits.

Results: We found five axes explaining 71% of trait variation. The first and second axes described carbon capture and allocation. Water use economy was related to carbon capture and was also represented on the third axis. Stomata traits were related to the fourth axis and plant potential height to the fourth and fifth axes.

Conclusion: The high dimensionality we found suggests that ecological strategies to water and carbon use are diverse in (sub)tropical montane forest species. Therefore, contrary to the expectation, these plants could use different ecological strategies to achieve a similar fitness in the growth–survival gradient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-277
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Ecology and Diversity
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was financed in part by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior - Brasil (CAPES [Finance code - 001; Finance Code 001], awarded to AVR and FFP. The IFFSC project was funded by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa e Inovação do Estado de Santa Catarina (FAPESC)[grant 2016TR2524]. ACV was supported by CNPq (research grant 312075/2013-8). AE-M was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) [grants TreeMort 758873 and T‐FORCES 291585], the NERC project ‘TREMOR’ [NE/N004655/1] and MEMBRA [NE/V021346/1]. FB was supported by CNPq (research grant [121397/2016-5). ALG thanks to CNPq for the productivity grant [311303/2020-0];CNPQ [121397/2016-5,311303/2020-0,312075/2013-8];H2020 European Research Council [TreeMort 758873,T‐FORCES 291585];Natural Environment Research Council [project “TREMOR” (NE/N004655/1)]; We thank Gabriel Nakamura, Aline Richter, and members of Laboratório de Ecologia Funcional e Filogenética (LEFF-UFRGS) for discussions in early version of the manuscript. Also, to Laszlo Nagy and the anonymous referees of the manuscript for the important comments and constructive criticism, which contributed to improving the text.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Botanical Society of Scotland and Taylor & Francis.


  • Evergreen rain forest
  • leaf economic spectrum
  • plant strategies
  • stem traits
  • water use efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


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