Linking ecomechanical models and functional traits to understand phenotypic diversity

Timothy E. Higham, Lara A. Ferry, Lars Schmitz, Duncan J. Irschick, Samuel Starko, Philip S.L. Anderson, Philip J. Bergmann, Heather A. Jamniczky, Leandro R. Monteiro, Dina Navon, Julie Messier, Emily Carrington, Stacy C. Farina, Kara L. Feilich, L. Patricia Hernandez, Michele A. Johnson, Sandy M. Kawano, Chris J. Law, Sarah J. Longo, Christopher H. MartinPatrick T. Martone, Alejandro Rico-Guevara, Sharlene E. Santana, Karl J. Niklas

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Physical principles and laws determine the set of possible organismal phenotypes. Constraints arising from development, the environment, and evolutionary history then yield workable, integrated phenotypes. We propose a theoretical and practical framework that considers the role of changing environments. This ‘ecomechanical approach’ integrates functional organismal traits with the ecological variables. This approach informs our ability to predict species shifts in survival and distribution and provides critical insights into phenotypic diversity. We outline how to use the ecomechanical paradigm using drag-induced bending in trees as an example. Our approach can be incorporated into existing research and help build interdisciplinary bridges. Finally, we identify key factors needed for mass data collection, analysis, and the dissemination of models relevant to this framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)860-873
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • biomechanics
  • biophysics
  • community ecology
  • development
  • mechanics
  • safety factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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