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A common garden super-experiment: An impossible dream to inspire possible synthesis

October 15, 2021
  1. Global change threatens plant diversity and disrupts its interrelationship with ecosystem structure and function. This disruption in turn undermines confidence in the knowledge ecologists produce, and whether it will translate into multidisciplinary research settings or guide the effective management of natural lands.
  2. To address this challenge, ecology needs to consider the interactions between different levels of biological hierarchy, especially how they feedback on, and are mediated by, plant diversity. Doing so will require conducting empirical work and developing theory that simultaneously considers multiple disciplinary perspectives and units of study.
  3. Here we advocate the use of common gardens to integrate ecology, evolutionary biology, and ecosystem science through an explicit focus on simultaneous measurement of response variables at multiple levels of biological organization. This approach will provide opportunities to evaluate assumptions important to prediction, such as space-for-time substitution, and tackle the integration of physicochemical and eco-evolutionary foundations to understanding plants and ecosystems.
  4. Synthesis: We summarize the large body of research on Sonoran Desert winter annuals to demonstrate how experimental designs that employ common gardens to integrate processes across scales hold special promise. This includes refining trait-based theories of plant strategies, providing insight into ecosystem responses to global change, and collaborating effectively with other scientific disciplines.
Publication Year 2022
Title A common garden super-experiment: An impossible dream to inspire possible synthesis
DOI 10.1111/1365-2745.13793
Authors Travis E. Huxman, Daniel E. Winkler, Kailen A. Mooney
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Ecology
Index ID 70225528
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Southwest Biological Science Center