J Syst Evol ›› 2024, Vol. 62 ›› Issue (2): 233-241.DOI: 10.1111/jse.13032

• Short Communication • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A test of island plant syndromes using resource-use traits

Andrea C. Westerband1†*, Tiffany M. Knight2,3,4, and Kasey E. Barton1   

  1. 1 School of Life Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 3190 Maile Way, Room 101, Honolulu 96822, HI, USA;
    2 Department of Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ, Halle(Saale), Germany;
    3 Institute of Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle(Saale), Germany;
    4 German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research(iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
    Current address:Andrea C. Westerband, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail:andreawesterband@gmail.com
  • Received:2023-01-24 Accepted:2023-10-06 Online:2023-10-31 Published:2024-03-01

Abstract: Despite representing a fraction of the global terrestrial surface area, oceanic islands are disproportionately diverse in species, resulting from high rates of endemicity. Island plants are thought to share a unique phenotype—referred to as an island syndrome—which is thought to be driven by convergent evolution in response to selection by shared abiotic and biotic factors. One aspect of the island plant syndrome that has received relatively little research focus is that island plants are expected to have converged on conservative resource use associated with slow growth rates and weak competitive abilities. Here we tested whether native, woody Hawaiian plant species are phenotypically distinct—with more resource-conservative leaf traits—compared to a globally distributed sample of continental species. Using an archipelago-wide trait data set, we detected that on average, native Hawaiian species had lower leaf nutrient concentrations overall, and lower nutrient concentrations at high leaf mass per area, but no other phenotypic differences compared with continental plants. There was also considerable overlap in the trait spaces of native Hawaiian species and continental species. Our findings indicate that an island plant syndrome for leaf traits is not present in the Hawaiian flora, and that island species can demonstrate extensive variation in their resource-use strategies, on a scale that is comparable with that of continental species worldwide.

Key words: endemic species, functional traits, Hawaii, island syndromes, leaf economics spectrum, phylogenetic disharmony