The functional configuration of plant communities follows a limited number of dominant schemes, which are surprisingly similar to those found for individual plant species.
Too strong is the temptation to paraphrase the famous incipit of the novel ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy:
“Are plant communities all alike or is every plant community unique in its own way? “
The ‘Anna Karenina principle’ applied to plant communities is, in a nutshell, the core of the new paper we have just published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. The exuberance of the plant world when it comes to self-organizing into variously assorted communities puzzled ecologists for decades in their search for patterns and commonalities across regions. Thanks to the unprecedented collection of data made available by sPlot – The Global Vegetation-plot database, we found that the organization of plants into communities follows a limited number of dominant schemes, which are surprisingly similar to those existing at the level of individual plant species.