The study of plant functional traits and variation among and within species can help illuminate functional coordination and trade-offs in key processes that allow plants to grow, reproduce and survive. We studied 20 leaf, above-ground stem, below-ground stem and fine-root traits of 17 Costus species from forests in Costa Rica and Panama to answer the following questions: (i) Do congeneric species show above-ground and below-ground trait coordination and trade-offs consistent with theory of resource acquisition and conservation? (ii) Is there correlated evolution among traits? (iii) Given the diversity of habitats over which Costus occurs, what is the relative contribution of site and species to trait variation? We performed a principal components analysis (PCA) to assess for the existence of a spectrum of trait variation and found that the first two PCs accounted for 21.4 % and 17.8 % of the total trait variation, respectively, with the first axis of variation being consistent with a continuum of resource-acquisitive and resource-conservative traits in water acquisition and use, and the second axis of variation being related to the leaf economics spectrum. Stomatal conductance was negatively related to both above-ground stem and rhizome specific density, and these relationships became stronger after accounting for evolutionary relatedness, indicating correlated evolution. Despite elevation and climatic differences among sites, high trait variation was ascribed to individuals rather than to sites. We conclude that Costus species present trait coordination and trade-offs that allow species to be categorized as having a resource-acquisitive or resource-conservative functional strategy, consistent with a whole-plant functional strategy with evident coordination and trade-offs between above-ground and below-ground function. Our results also show that herbaceous species and species with rhizomes tend to agree with trade-offs found in more species-rich comparisons.
Eleinis Ávila-Lovera, Gregory R Goldsmith, Kathleen M Kay, Jennifer L Funk, Above- and below-ground functional trait coordination in the Neotropical understory genus Costus, AoB PLANTS, Volume 14, Issue 1, February 2022, plab073, https://doi.org/10.1093/aobpla/plab073
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