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1.  TRY – a global database of plant traits 
Kattge, J | Díaz, S | Lavorel, S | Prentice, I C | Leadley, P | Bönisch, G | Garnier, E | Westoby, M | Reich, P B | Wright, I J | Cornelissen, J H C | Violle, C | Harrison, S P | Van Bodegom, P M | Reichstein, M | Enquist, B J | Soudzilovskaia, N A | Ackerly, D D | Anand, M | Atkin, O | Bahn, M | Baker, T R | Baldocchi, D | Bekker, R | Blanco, C C | Blonder, B | Bond, W J | Bradstock, R | Bunker, D E | Casanoves, F | Cavender-Bares, J | Chambers, J Q | Chapin, F S | Chave, J | Coomes, D | Cornwell, W K | Craine, J M | Dobrin, B H | Duarte, L | Durka, W | Elser, J | Esser, G | Estiarte, M | Fagan, W F | Fang, J | Fernández-Méndez, F | Fidelis, A | Finegan, B | Flores, O | Ford, H | Frank, D | Freschet, G T | Fyllas, N M | Gallagher, R V | Green, W A | Gutierrez, A G | Hickler, T | Higgins, S I | Hodgson, J G | Jalili, A | Jansen, S | Joly, C A | Kerkhoff, A J | Kirkup, D | Kitajima, K | Kleyer, M | Klotz, S | Knops, J M H | Kramer, K | Kühn, I | Kurokawa, H | Laughlin, D | Lee, T D | Leishman, M | Lens, F | Lenz, T | Lewis, S L | Lloyd, J | Llusià, J | Louault, F | Ma, S | Mahecha, M D | Manning, P | Massad, T | Medlyn, B E | Messier, J | Moles, A T | Müller, S C | Nadrowski, K | Naeem, S | Niinemets, Ü | Nöllert, S | Nüske, A | Ogaya, R | Oleksyn, J | Onipchenko, V G | Onoda, Y | Ordoñez, J | Overbeck, G | Ozinga, W A | Patiño, S | Paula, S | Pausas, J G | Peñuelas, J | Phillips, O L | Pillar, V | Poorter, H | Poorter, L | Poschlod, P | Prinzing, A | Proulx, R | Rammig, A | Reinsch, S | Reu, B | Sack, L | Salgado-Negret, B | Sardans, J | Shiodera, S | Shipley, B | Siefert, A | Sosinski, E | Soussana, J-F | Swaine, E | Swenson, N | Thompson, K | Thornton, P | Waldram, M | Weiher, E | White, M | White, S | Wright, S J | Yguel, B | Zaehle, S | Zanne, A E | Wirth, C
Global Change Biology  2011;17(9):2905-2935.
Plant traits – the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants and their organs – determine how primary producers respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, influence ecosystem processes and services and provide a link from species richness to ecosystem functional diversity. Trait data thus represent the raw material for a wide range of research from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology to biogeography. Here we present the global database initiative named TRY, which has united a wide range of the plant trait research community worldwide and gained an unprecedented buy-in of trait data: so far 93 trait databases have been contributed. The data repository currently contains almost three million trait entries for 69 000 out of the world's 300 000 plant species, with a focus on 52 groups of traits characterizing the vegetative and regeneration stages of the plant life cycle, including growth, dispersal, establishment and persistence. A first data analysis shows that most plant traits are approximately log-normally distributed, with widely differing ranges of variation across traits. Most trait variation is between species (interspecific), but significant intraspecific variation is also documented, up to 40% of the overall variation. Plant functional types (PFTs), as commonly used in vegetation models, capture a substantial fraction of the observed variation – but for several traits most variation occurs within PFTs, up to 75% of the overall variation. In the context of vegetation models these traits would better be represented by state variables rather than fixed parameter values. The improved availability of plant trait data in the unified global database is expected to support a paradigm shift from species to trait-based ecology, offer new opportunities for synthetic plant trait research and enable a more realistic and empirically grounded representation of terrestrial vegetation in Earth system models.
PMCID: PMC3627314
comparative ecology; database; environmental gradient; functional diversity; global analysis; global change; interspecific variation; intraspecific variation; plant attribute; plant functional type; plant trait; vegetation model
2.  Is leaf dry matter content a better predictor of soil fertility than specific leaf area? 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(7):1337-1345.
Background and Aims
Specific leaf area (SLA), a key element of the ‘worldwide leaf economics spectrum’, is the preferred ‘soft’ plant trait for assessing soil fertility. SLA is a function of leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and leaf thickness (LT). The first, LDMC, defines leaf construction costs and can be used instead of SLA. However, LT identifies shade at its lowest extreme and succulence at its highest, and is not related to soil fertility. Why then is SLA more frequently used as a predictor of soil fertility than LDMC?
SLA, LDMC and LT were measured and leaf density (LD) estimated for almost 2000 species, and the capacity of LD to predict LDMC was examined, as was the relative contribution of LDMC and LT to the expression of SLA. Subsequently, the relationships between SLA, LDMC and LT with respect to soil fertility and shade were described.
Key Results
Although LD is strongly related to LDMC, and LDMC and LT each contribute equally to the expression of SLA, the exact relationships differ between ecological groupings. LDMC predicts leaf nitrogen content and soil fertility but, because LT primarily varies with light intensity, SLA increases in response to both increased shade and increased fertility.
Gradients of soil fertility are frequently also gradients of biomass accumulation with reduced irradiance lower in the canopy. Therefore, SLA, which includes both fertility and shade components, may often discriminate better between communities or treatments than LDMC. However, LDMC should always be the preferred trait for assessing gradients of soil fertility uncoupled from shade. Nevertheless, because leaves multitask, individual leaf traits do not necessarily exhibit exact functional equivalence between species. In consequence, rather than using a single stand-alone predictor, multivariate analyses using several leaf traits is recommended.
PMCID: PMC3197453  PMID: 21948627
Ellenberg numbers; functional traits; leaf density; leaf nitrogen; leaf size; leaf thickness; relative growth rate (RGR); shade tolerance; variation in trait expression
3.  Stomatal vs. genome size in angiosperms: the somatic tail wagging the genomic dog? 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(4):573-584.
Background and Aims
Genome size is a function, and the product, of cell volume. As such it is contingent on ecological circumstance. The nature of ‘this ecological circumstance’ is, however, hotly debated. Here, we investigate for angiosperms whether stomatal size may be this ‘missing link’: the primary determinant of genome size. Stomata are crucial for photosynthesis and their size affects functional efficiency.
Stomatal and leaf characteristics were measured for 1442 species from Argentina, Iran, Spain and the UK and, using PCA, some emergent ecological and taxonomic patterns identified. Subsequently, an assessment of the relationship between genome-size values obtained from the Plant DNA C-values database and measurements of stomatal size was carried out.
Key Results
Stomatal size is an ecologically important attribute. It varies with life-history (woody species < herbaceous species < vernal geophytes) and contributes to ecologically and physiologically important axes of leaf specialization. Moreover, it is positively correlated with genome size across a wide range of major taxa.
Stomatal size predicts genome size within angiosperms. Correlation is not, however, proof of causality and here our interpretation is hampered by unexpected deficiencies in the scientific literature. Firstly, there are discrepancies between our own observations and established ideas about the ecological significance of stomatal size; very large stomata, theoretically facilitating photosynthesis in deep shade, were, in this study (and in other studies), primarily associated with vernal geophytes of unshaded habitats. Secondly, the lower size limit at which stomata can function efficiently, and the ecological circumstances under which these minute stomata might occur, have not been satisfactorally resolved. Thus, our hypothesis, that the optimization of stomatal size for functional efficiency is a major ecological determinant of genome size, remains unproven.
PMCID: PMC2850795  PMID: 20375204
Stomatal size; genome size; seed size; life history; photosynthesis; allometry; ecology; evolution; SLA; leaf structure; CAM; C4
4.  Evidence for both the nucleus and cytoplasm as subcellular sites of pathogenesis in Huntington's disease in cell culture and in transgenic mice expressing mutant huntingtin. 
A unifying feature of the CAG expansion diseases is the formation of intracellular aggregates composed of the mutant polyglutamine-expanded protein. Despite the presence of aggregates in affected patients, the precise relationship between aggregates and disease pathogenesis is unresolved. Results from in vivo and in vitro studies of mutant huntingtin have led to the hypothesis that nuclear localization of aggregates is critical for the pathology of Huntington's disease (HD). We tested this hypothesis using a 293T cell culture model system by comparing the frequency and toxicity of cytoplasmic and nuclear huntingtin aggregates. Insertion of nuclear import or export sequences into huntingtin fragments containing 548 or 151 amino acids was used to reverse the normal localization of these proteins. Changing the subcellular localization of the fragments did not influence their total aggregate frequency. There were also no significant differences in toxicity associated with the presence of nuclear compared with cytoplasmic aggregates. These studies, together with findings in transgenic mice, suggest two phases for the pathogenesis of HD, with the initial toxicity in the cytoplasm followed by proteolytic processing of huntingtin, nuclear translocation with increased nuclear concentration of N-terminal fragments, seeding of aggregates and resultant apoptotic death. These findings support the nucleus and cytosol as subcellular sites for pathogenesis in HD.
PMCID: PMC1692613  PMID: 10434304

Results 1-4 (4)