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Phylogenetic Structural Equation Modelling Reveals No Need For An 'origin' Of The Leaf Economics Spectrum.

C. Mason, Eric W Goolsby, Devon P Humphreys, L. Donovan
Published 2016 · Biology, Medicine

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The leaf economics spectrum (LES) is a prominent ecophysiological paradigm that describes global variation in leaf physiology across plant ecological strategies using a handful of key traits. Nearly a decade ago, Shipley et al. (2006) used structural equation modelling to explore the causal functional relationships among LES traits that give rise to their strong global covariation. They concluded that an unmeasured trait drives LES covariation, sparking efforts to identify the latent physiological trait underlying the 'origin' of the LES. Here, we use newly developed phylogenetic structural equation modelling approaches to reassess these conclusions using both global LES data as well as data collected across scales in the genus Helianthus. For global LES data, accounting for phylogenetic non-independence indicates that no additional unmeasured traits are required to explain LES covariation. Across datasets in Helianthus, trait relationships are highly variable, indicating that global-scale models may poorly describe LES covariation at non-global scales.
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