Functional distinctiveness of major plant lineages
1. Plant traits vary widely across species and underpin differences in ecological strategy. Despite centuries of interest, the contributions of different evolutionary lineages to modern-day functional diversity remain poorly quantified. 2. Expanding data bases of plant traits plus rapidly improving phylogenies enable for the first time a data-driven global picture of plant functional diversity across the major clades of higher plants. We mapped five key traits relevant to metabolism, resource competition and reproductive strategy onto a phylogeny across 48324 vascular plant species world-wide, along with climate and biogeo- graphic data. Using a novel metric, we test whether major plant lineages are functionally distinctive. We then highlight the trait–lineage combinations that are most functionally distinctive within the present-day spread of ecological strategies. 3. For some trait–clade combinations, knowing the clade of a species conveys little information to neo- and palaeo-ecologists. In other trait–clade combinations, the clade identity can be highly reveal- ing, especially informative clade–trait combinations include Proteaceae, which is highly distinctive, representing the global slow extreme of the leaf economic spectrum. Magnoliidae and Rosidae con- tribute large leaf sizes and seed masses and have distinctively warm, wet climatic distributions. 4. Synthesis. This analysis provides a shortlist of the most distinctive trait–lineage combinations along with their geographic and climatic context: a global view of extant functional diversity across the tips of the vascular plant phylogeny.