Trait-based approach to assess plant species vulnerability to environmental changes in agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems
Convener: Veronica De Micco | Co-conveners: Rita AngeloECSECS, Jesus Julio Camarero, Leo Marcelis

The health of plant natural communities, crop and forestry systems is constrained by increasing occurrence of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Phenomena such as climate extremes, drought, flooding, insect outbreaks and wildfire are affecting the productivity of plant communities often leading to decline and mortality, forest dieback and alterations in distribution and productivity of the most important crops worldwide.
The mechanisms of plant decline, often related to hydraulic failure and reduction in photosynthesis, have not been fully unravelled and linked to specific measurable traits, leading to a need for multiple proxies.
Understanding how traits and their plasticity connect with the mechanisms determining plant health and species mortality is a key requisite for i) predicting plant population dynamics and climate change-driven changes in community composition in natural ecosystems and ii) forecasting possible changes in plant productivity in crop systems to manage cultivation factors to mitigate the climate change effects. This also applies to controlled environment agriculture systems for resource use optimization for sustainability goals, and to crop production in Space for exploration.
This session provides a forum on the role of functional traits (e.g., specific leaf area and anatomy, leaf nitrogen content, seed mass, plant/root architecture, phenology, quantitative wood anatomy, wood density, hydraulic traits, etc.) as indicators and proxies of plant status and post-disturbance resilience.
We encourage contributions to the session that: (i) provide quantitative knowledge regarding the intra- and inter-specific diversity in functional traits for predicting plant vulnerability to environmental stressors; (ii) assess the potential of traits to acclimate throughout an individual plant’s life under changing environmental conditions; (iii) show the ability of traits to serve as indicators of plant performance, survival and resilience; (iv) detect possible trade-offs among traits (e.g. coordination between hydraulic and photosynthetic processes) related to resource acquisition and allocation.
A multidisciplinary effort is needed to unravel plant acclimation and adaptation strategies and upscale gained information to evaluate implications for productivity of croplands, forests and natural ecosystems. Such information will be useful as input for dynamic global vegetation and crop models supporting international policy for sustainability.