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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Chair of Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins

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The ecology of biomes

Biomes are major vegetation formations, defined by structural and functional attributes rather than by floristic species composition. Recent research has made it clear that different floristic instances of the same biome may respond very differently to climate change. We have shown that this is because functional and structural attributes of some biomes are more strongly influenced by evolutionary history than by selection (see Moncrieff et al. 2014, Global Ecology and Biogeography). And indeed when we examine the climatic profiles of the world’s biomes it is clear that biomes are not well constrained by climate (Moncrieff, Hickler and Higgins 2015, Global Ecology and Biogeography). We have proposed a new functional definition of biomes that circumvents some of these problems (Higgins et al. 2016, Global Change Biology). This paper builds on analyses of global patterns in leaf phenology we have been working on (e.g. Buitenwerf, Rose and Higgins, 2015 Nature Climate Change). More recently we have shown how linking process based species distribution models projections for many thousands of species with data on plant growth form provides a novel inference framework for predicting changing climatic suitability for the plant growth forms that define biomes (see Conradi et al. 2020, New Phytologist).

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