Climate extremes will elicit responses from the individual to the ecosystem level. However, only recently have ecologists begun to synthetically assess responses to climate extremes across multiple levels of ecological organization. We review the literature to examine how plant responses vary and interact across levels of organization, focusing on how individual, population and community responses may inform ecosystem-level responses in herbaceous and forest plant communities. We report a high degree of variability at the individual level, and a consequential inconsistency in the translation of individual or population responses to directional changes in community- or ecosystem-level processes. The scaling of individual or population responses to community or ecosystem responses is often predicated upon the functional identity of the species in the community, in particular, the dominant species. Furthermore, the reported stability in plant community composition and functioning with respect to extremes is often driven by processes that operate at the community level, such as species niche partitioning and compensatory responses during or after the event. Future research efforts would benefit from assessing ecological responses across multiple levels of organization, as this will provide both a holistic and mechanistic understanding of ecosystem responses to increasing climatic variability.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events’.
One contribution of 14 to a theme issue ‘Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events’.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3723958.
- Accepted February 10, 2017.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.