The return of the variance: Intraspecific variability in community ecology

Cyrille Violle, Brian J. Enquist, Brian J. McGill, Lin Jiang, Cécile H. Albert, Catherine Hulshof, Vincent Jung, Julie Messier

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

727 Scopus citations


Despite being recognized as a promoter of diversity and a condition for local coexistence decades ago, the importance of intraspecific variance has been neglected over time in community ecology. Recently, there has been a new emphasis on intraspecific variability. Indeed, recent developments in trait-based community ecology have underlined the need to integrate variation at both the intraspecific as well as interspecific level. We introduce new T-statistics ('T' for trait), based on the comparison of intraspecific and interspecific variances of functional traits across organizational levels, to operationally incorporate intraspecific variability into community ecology theory. We show that a focus on the distribution of traits at local and regional scales combined with original analytical tools can provide unique insights into the primary forces structuring communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-252
Number of pages9
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2012


  • Community assembly
  • Functional trait
  • Intraspecific variation
  • Mean field approach
  • Species coexistence
  • Species diversity
  • T-statistics
  • Variance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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  • Cite this

    Violle, C., Enquist, B. J., McGill, B. J., Jiang, L., Albert, C. H., Hulshof, C., Jung, V., & Messier, J. (2012). The return of the variance: Intraspecific variability in community ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 27(4), 244-252.