DDD Conference

Dr. Ofir Katz

Functional Biogeography of Spinescence in the Flora of Israel

Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, Israel

Organismal traits are strongly linked with species distribution. Nevertheless, research tends to focus on explaining distribution variations by traits, but not as much on using distribution to decipher trait functions. This can be of particular importance for multi-functional traits. We demonstrate this potential for spinescence in the flora of Israel, as a trait associated with antiherbivory defence, aridity alleviation and seed dispersal. Our analysis yielded several patterns and trends in the geographic distribution of various spinescence variables (total spinescence in the flora, spinescence by life form and plant part), which can be associated to different degrees with each of the three functions. These patterns can always be most strongly explained by an antiherbivory function, but there are strong indications for spines having an aridity-alleviating function in deserts and indications for spines having a function in seed dispersal, most likely outside deserts. This study is an example of the power and potential of functional biogeography for understanding organismal trait functions and how these traits can vary with climate and shift in response to climate change.

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