ERI Seminar Series: “Island Plant Functional Syndromes & Competition”

Date Thursday 16 March 2023
Time 12pm - 1pm
Where K.B.07
Presenter Dr. Kasey Barton (School of Life Sciences, University of Hawaii at Manoa)
Contact email
Admission Cost Free

Seminar Abstract:

Island biodiversity is unique, characterized by high rates of endemicity, phylogenetic disharmony, and distinctive phenotypes. Island biodiversity is also among the most threatened in the world, accounting for disproportionate numbers of species endangerments and extinctions, and invasive species are identified as a major threat. It has been predicted that island plants have evolved weak competitive abilities as a consequence of low species richness and the relatively mild climates of islands, making them easily outcompeted by more vigorous continental species that naturalize on islands. However, very little direct evidence via competition experiments or demographic analyses has been collected to test this idea. We explore this predicted island plant syndrome using functional trait approaches, including a case study of leaf economic spectrum traits in native and non-native Hawaiian woody plants, and a global synthesis of island plant resource-use functional traits. In Hawaii, we have detected extensive variability in functional traits of both native and non-native species, with weak support for the prediction that island plants generally occupy the conservative end of the leaf economic spectrum. Moreover, trait differences between native and non-native plants are contingent on climate, illustrating the important role of environmental heterogeneity underlying island plant resource use strategies. Our future work expands to consider global patterns of island plant functional trait strategies, with explicit focus on links to environmental heterogeneity within and among islands, with the additional goal of predicting climate change effects on island plant function.

Speaker Bio:

Originally from Colorado, Kasey Barton received a BS in Biology from Stanford University and a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She then did a NERC postdoctoral fellowship at the Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2010, she joined the Botany faculty at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Her research examines how endemic island plants tolerate stress (drought, salinity, fire, competition, herbivory) through ontogeny and island plant syndromes using experimental and trait-based approaches. She enjoys exploring Hawaiʻi with her husband, 15-year-old son and 11- year-old daughter.

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