While trait-based plant ecology attempts to use small numbers of organ-level traits to predict ecological strategies, there is a major gap between organ-level ecophysiology and plant fitness in an environmental context. Bridging this gap are whole-plant organisational traits, including reproductive timing and biomass allocation patterns.
Mason et al. explore the role of these traits in adaptation to diverse environments, using a phylogenetic comparative approach across wild sunflowers (Helianthus). Whole-plant organisational traits are shown to be just as important as organ-level traits in predicting ecological strategies in sunflowers, demonstrating that trait-based ecology can be strengthened through the explicit inclusion of whole-plant organisation.
Mason, C. M., Goolsby, E. W., Davis, K. E., Bullock, D. V., & Donovan, L. A. (2017). Importance of whole-plant biomass allocation and reproductive timing to habitat differentiation across the North American sunflowers. Annals of Botany, 119(7), 1131–1142. https://doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcx002