Text by Lauri Laanisto
Intraspecific variability in functional traits has emerged in recent years as a quite important phenomenon. At least in plant ecology. Traditional view in life sciences has promoted between-species differences as much more significant drivers of ecological processes than within-species differences. Even though already Darwin pointed out that competition for resources is the fiercest within a population – individuals with the same niche fighting over the same stuff.
The current trends in trait-based ecology favor big data. It is logical to take as much data as possible and put all the numbers into one model and see if any general patterns emerge. Makes sense. But at least in the purely ecological studies, this approach to intraspecific trait variability has not really worked. In many cases, one being within-species variability, we should maybe use a deeper-going approach. And have smaller, but more insightful datasets than let´s say community weighted means. Angela Moles just published a very nice essay review about it.
In its own way, this study is very insightful in the context of intraspecific funcational variability. The way how VOC emissions of Pinus sylvestris depend on genetics, epigenetics and also phenotypically because of variable environmental conditions. And how these different sources of intraspecific variability might be related. So much questions in this regard are still unanswered…
Citation: Kännaste, A., Laanisto, L., Pazouki, L., Copolovici, L., Suhorutšenko, M., Azeem, M., Toom, L., Borg-Karlson, A.-K. & Niinemets, Ü. (2018). Diterpenoid fingerprints in pine foliage across an environmental and chemotypic matrix: Isoabienol content is a key trait differentiating chemotypes. Phytochemistry, 147, 80-88. (link to full text)