Plant Community Composition (plant + community_composition)

Distribution by Scientific Domains
Distribution within Life Sciences

Selected Abstracts

The effects of fire, local environment and time on ant assemblages in fens and forests

Jaime S. Ratchford
ABSTRACT We investigated the effects of the abiotic environment, plant community composition and disturbance by fire on ant assemblages in two distinct habitat types in the Siskiyou Mountains in northern California and southern Oregon, USA. Sampling over 2 years in burned and unburned Darlingtonia fens and their adjacent upland forests, we found that the effects of disturbance by fire depended on habitat type. In forests, fire intensity predicted richness in ant assemblages in both years after the fire, and plant community composition predicted richness 2 years after the fire. No factors were associated with richness in the species-poor fen ant assemblages. Species-specific responses to both habitat type and disturbance by fire were idiosyncratic. Assemblage composition depended on habitat type, but not disturbance by fire, and the composition of each assemblage between years was more dissimilar in burned than unburned sites. [source]

Effects of plant diversity, plant productivity and habitat parameters on arthropod abundance in montane European grasslands

ECOGRAPHY, Issue 4 2005
Jörg Perner
Arthropod abundance has been hypothesized to be correlated with plant diversity but the results of previous studies have been equivocal. In contrast, plant productivity, vegetation structure, abiotic site conditions, and the physical disturbance of habitats, are factors that interact with plant diversity, and that have been shown to influence arthropod abundance. We studied the combined effect of plant species diversity, productivity and site characteristics on arthropod abundance in 71 managed grasslands in central Germany using multivariate statistics. For each site we determined plant species cover, plant community biomass (productivity), macro- and micronutrients in the soil, and characterized the location of sites with respect to orographic parameters as well as the current and historic management regimes. Arthropods were sampled using a suction sampler and classified a priori into functional groups (FGs). We found that arthropod abundance was not correlated with plant species richness, effective diversity or Camargo's evenness, even when influences of environmental variables were taken into account. In contrast, plant community composition was highly correlated with arthropod abundances. Plant community productivity influenced arthropod abundance but explained only a small proportion of the variance. The abundances of the different arthropod FGs were influenced differentially by agricultural management, soil characteristics, vegetation structure and by interactions between different FGs of arthropods. Herbivores, carnivores and detritivores reacted differently to variation in environmental variables in a manner consistent with their feeding mode. Our results show that in natural grassland systems arthropod abundance is not a simple function of plant species richness, and they emphasize the important role of plant community composition for the abundance patterns of the arthropod assemblages. [source]

Spatial characterization of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal molecular diversity at the submetre scale in a temperate grassland

Daniel L. Mummey
Abstract Although arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form spatially complex communities in terrestrial ecosystems, the scales at which this diversity manifests itself is poorly understood. This information is critical to the understanding of the role of AMF in plant community composition. We examined small-scale (submetre) variability of AMF community composition (terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism fingerprinting) and abundance (extraradical hyphal lengths) in two 1 m2 plots situated in a native grassland ecosystem of western Montana. Extraradical AMF hyphal lengths varied greatly between samples (14,89 m g soil,1) and exhibited spatial structure at scales <30 cm. The composition of AMF communities was also found to exhibit significant spatial autocorrelation, with correlogram analyses suggesting patchiness at scales <50 cm. Supportive of overall AMF community composition analyses, individual AMF ribotypes corresponding to specific phylogenetic groups exhibited distinct spatial autocorrelation. Our results demonstrate that AMF diversity and abundance can be spatially structured at scales of <1 m. Such small-scale heterogeneity in the soil suggests that establishing seedlings may be exposed to very different, location dependent AMF communities. Our results also have direct implications for representative sampling of AMF communities in the field. [source]

Effects of an exotic invasive macrophyte (tropical signalgrass) on native plant community composition, species richness and functional diversity

Summary 1.,The issue of freshwater species being threatened by invasion has become central in conservation biology because inland waters exhibit the highest species richness per unit area, but apparently have the highest extinctions rates on the planet. 2.,In this article, we evaluated the effects of an exotic, invasive aquatic grass (Urochloa subquadripara, tropical signalgrass) on the diversity and assemblage composition of native macrophytes in four Neotropical water bodies (two reservoirs and two lakes). Species cover was assessed in quadrats, and plant biomass was measured in further quadrats, located in sites where tropical signalgrass dominated (D quadrats) and sites where it was not dominant or entirely absent (ND quadrats). The effects of tropical signalgrass on macrophyte species richness, Shannon diversity and number of macrophyte life forms (a surrogate of functional richness) were assessed through regressions, and composition was assessed with a DCA. The effects of tropical signalgrass biomass on the likelihood of occurrence of specific macrophyte life forms were assessed through logistic regression. 3.,Tropical signalgrass had a negative effect on macrophyte richness and Shannon and functional diversity, and also influenced assemblage composition. Emergent, rooted with floating stems and rooted submersed species were negatively affected by tropical signalgrass, while the occurrence of free-floating species was positively affected. 4.,Our results suggest that competition with emergent species and reduction of underwater radiation, which reduces the number of submersed species, counteract facilitation of free-floating species, contributing to a decrease in plant diversity. In addition, homogenisation of plant assemblages shows that tropical signalgrass reduces the beta diversity in the macrophyte community. 5.,Although our results were obtained at fine spatial scales, they are cause for concern because macrophytes are an important part of freshwater diversity. [source]

Reduced early growing season freezing resistance in alpine treeline plants under elevated atmospheric CO2

Abstract The frequency of freezing events during the early growing season and the vulnerability to freezing of plants in European high-altitude environments could increase under future atmospheric and climate change. We tested early growing season freezing sensitivity in 10 species, from four plant functional types (PFTs) spanning three plant growth forms (PGFs), from a long-term in situ CO2 enrichment (566 vs. 370 ppm) and 2-year soil warming (+4 K) experiment at treeline in the Swiss Alps (Stillberg, Davos). By additionally tracking plant phenology, we distinguished indirect phenology-driven CO2 and warming effects from direct physiology-related effects on freezing sensitivity. The freezing damage threshold (lethal temperature 50) under ambient conditions of the 10 treeline species spanned from ,6.7±0.3 °C (Larix decidua) to ,9.9±0.6 °C (Vaccinium gaultherioides). PFT, but not PGF, explained a significant amount of this interspecific variation. Long-term exposure to elevated CO2 led to greater freezing sensitivity in multiple species but did not influence phenology, implying that physiological changes caused by CO2 enrichment were responsible for the effect. The elevated CO2 effect on freezing resistance was significant in leaves of Larix, Vaccinium myrtillus, and Gentiana punctata and marginally significant in leaves of Homogyne alpina and Avenella flexuosa. No significant CO2 effect was found in new shoots of Empetrum hermaphroditum or in leaves of Pinus uncinata, Leontodon helveticus, Melampyrum pratense, and V. gaultherioides. Soil warming led to advanced leaf expansion and reduced freezing resistance in V. myrtillus only, whereas Avenella showed greater freezing resistance when exposed to warming. No effect of soil warming was found in any of the other species. Effects of elevated CO2 and soil warming on freezing sensitivity were not consistent within PFTs or PGFs, suggesting that any future shifts in plant community composition due to increased damage from freezing events will likely occur at the individual species level. [source]

Genetic variation in Sanguisorba minor after 6 years in situ selection under elevated CO2

Silvia Wieneke
Abstract Genetic variation within plant species in their response to elevated CO2 could be important for long-term changes in plant community composition because it allows for selection of responsive genotypes. Six years of in situ CO2 enrichment in a temperate grassland offered a unique opportunity to investigate such microevolutionary changes in a common herb of that plant community, Sanguisorba minor. Plants were grown from seeds collected at the end of a 6-year treatment in either ambient or elevated CO2. The resulting seedlings were grown under ambient or elevated CO2 and with or without interspecific competition by Bromus erectus in the greenhouse for two seasons. The effect of competition was included because we expected selection under elevated CO2 to favour increased competitive ability. Elevated CO2 in the greenhouse and competition both caused a significant reduction of the total dry mass in S. minor, by 12% and 40%, respectively, with no interaction between CO2 and competition. Genetic variation in all traits was substantial. Seed families responded differently to competition, but the family × greenhouse CO2 interaction was rather weak. There was no main effect of the field CO2 treatment on any parameter analysed in the greenhouse. However, the field CO2 treatment did significantly interact with the greenhouse CO2 treatment for the cumulative number of leaves, suggesting microevolutionary change in this plant trait. Families from ambient field CO2 produced fewer leaves under elevated greenhouse CO2, whereas families from elevated field CO2 retained constant number of leaves in either greenhouse CO2 treatment. Since this resulted in increased litter production of the families from elevated field CO2 under elevated greenhouse CO2, the microevolutionary response should, in turn, affect ecosystem functions through dry matter recycling. [source]

Potential effects of warming and drying on peatland plant community composition

Jake F. Weltzin
Abstract Boreal peatlands may be particularly vulnerable to climate change, because temperature regimes that currently constrain biological activity in these regions are predicted to increase substantially within the next century. Changes in peatland plant community composition in response to climate change may alter nutrient availability, energy budgets, trace gas fluxes, and carbon storage. We investigated plant community response to warming and drying in a field mesocosm experiment in northern Minnesota, USA. Large intact soil monoliths removed from a bog and a fen received three infrared warming treatments crossed with three water-table treatments (n = 3) for five years. Foliar cover of each species was estimated annually. In the bog, increases in soil temperature and decreases in water-table elevation increased cover of shrubs by 50% and decreased cover of graminoids by 50%. The response of shrubs to warming was distinctly species-specific, and ranged from increases (for Andromeda glaucophylla) to decreases (for Kalmia polifolia). In the fens, changes in plant cover were driven primarily by changes in water-table elevation, and responses were species- and lifeform-specific: increases in water-table elevation increased cover of graminoids , in particular Carex lasiocarpa and Carex livida, as well as mosses. In contrast, decreases in water-table elevation increased cover of shrubs, in particular A. glaucophylla and Chamaedaphne calyculata. The differential and sometimes opposite response of species and lifeforms to the treatments suggest that the structure and function of both bog and fen plant communities will change , in different directions or at different magnitudes , in response to warming and/or changes in water-table elevation that may accompany regional or global climate change. [source]

Influence of land use on plant community composition and diversity in Highland Sourveld grassland in the southern Drakensberg, South Africa

Summary 1Biodiversity conservation of grasslands in the face of transformation and global climate change will depend mainly on rangelands because of insufficient conservation areas in regions suited to agriculture. Transformed vegetation (pastures, crops and plantations) is not expected to conserve much biodiversity. This study examined the impact of land use on the plant diversity and community composition of the southern Drakensberg grasslands in South Africa, which are threatened with complete transformation to pastures, crops and plantations. 2The main land uses in this high rainfall region are: ranching or dairy production under private tenure using indigenous grassland, pastures (Eragrostis curvula, kikuyu and ryegrass) and maize; plantation forestry; communal tenure (maize and rangelands); and conservation. 3Plant diversity and composition were assessed using Whittaker plots. Transformed cover types were depauperate in species and ranged from kikuyu (1·4 species m,2) and ryegrass (2·9), to pine plantation (3·1), E. curvula pasture (3·1), commercial maize (3·2) and communal maize (7·8). With the exception of pine plantations, these communities supported mostly exotic (50 of 70 species) or ruderal indigenous species and made little contribution to plant species conservation. Abandoned communal cropland reverted to an indigenous grassland almost devoid of exotic species within c. 20 years. 4It was predicted that frequently cultivated sites (maize and ryegrass) would support less diversity than long-lived pastures (kikuyu and E. curvula). This was contradicted by the relatively high species diversity of communal maize fields, which was attributed to a lack of herbicides, and the depauperate communities of kikuyu and of E. curvula pasture, which were attributed, respectively, to a dense growth form and a severe mowing regime. 5Pine plantations harboured fourfold more indigenous species per plot (27) than other transformed types. Species were mostly shade-tolerant grassland relics that had persisted for 12 years since planting, and some forest colonizers. Indigenous species were unlikely to be maintained because of aggressive invasion by the exotic Rubus cuneifolius and severe disturbance associated with tree harvest and replanting. 6The richness of indigenous grasslands was expected to differ in response to grazing pressure but they differed only in composition. Grasslands were dominated by grasses, despite the richness of herbaceous species. The dominance of Themeda triandra was reduced under livestock grazing in favour of more grazing-tolerant species. Exotic species were inconspicuous except for the dicotyledon Richardia brasiliensis, a subdominant under communal grazing. 7Southern Drakensberg grasslands are probably now stocked with livestock six- to 35-fold higher than during pre-settlement times. A grassland protected for c. 50 years supported twofold greater richness (101 species plot,1) than grazed grasslands, suggesting that a 150-year history of increased mammalian grazing had already reduced plant diversity. 8Synthesis and applications. Land acquisition is costly, thus conservation of plant diversity in the southern Drakensberg requires a policy that inhibits transformation of rangelands. This can be achieved by enhancing their economic viability without changing the vegetation composition. Their inherent value must be recognized, such as for water production. The viability of commercial ranches can be improved by increasing their size. Conservation efforts need to be focused on plant taxa that only occur on unprotected rangelands. [source]

The development of vegetative zonation patterns in restored prairie pothole wetlands

Eric W. Seabloom
Summary 1The spatial structure of plant communities can have strong impacts on ecosystem functions and on associated animal communities. None the less, spatial structure is rarely used as a measure of restoration success. 2The restoration of hundreds of wetlands in the prairie pothole region in the mid-western USA provided an excellent opportunity to determine whether the re-establishment of abiotic conditions is sufficient to restore structure, composition and spatial patterning of the vegetation. 3We mapped the topography and vegetative distributions in 17 restored and nine natural wetlands. We used these data to compare the composition and spatial structure of the vegetation in both wetlands types. 4The composition of the plant communities differed between restored and natural wetlands; the restored wetlands lacked the well-developed sedge-meadow community found in most natural wetlands. However, the spatial heterogeneity was similar, although the zonation patterns were less well-developed in the restored wetlands. 5Although the overall structure was similar, species distributions differed among wetland types, such that species were found more than 10 cm higher in restored wetlands than in natural wetlands. 6Synthesis and applications. This study illustrates that restored plant community composition and spatial structure may converge on their targets at different rates. Evaluations of restoration success should consider spatial structure of communities along with compositional and functional metrics. [source]

Habitat islands in fire-prone vegetation: do landscape features influence community composition?

Peter J. Clarke
Aim, Location Landscape features, such as rock outcrops and ravines, can act as habitat islands in fire-prone vegetation by influencing the fire regime. In coastal and sub-coastal areas of Australia, rock outcrops and pavements form potential habitat islands in a matrix of fire-prone eucalypt forests. The aim of this study was to compare floristic composition and fire response traits of plants occurring on rocky areas and contrast them with the surrounding matrix. Methods Patterns of plant community composition and fire response were compared between rocky areas and surrounding sclerophyll forests in a range of climate types to test for differences. Classification and ordination were used to compare floristic composition and univariate analyses were used to compare fire response traits. Results The rock outcrops and pavements were dissimilar in species composition from the forest matrix but shared genera and families with the matrix. Outcrops and pavements were dominated by scleromorphic shrubs that were mainly killed by fire and had post-fire seedling recruitment (obligate seeders). In contrast, the most abundant species in the adjacent forest matrix were species that sprout after fire (sprouters). Main conclusions Fire frequency and intensity are likely to be less on outcrops than in the forest matrix because the physical barrier of rock edges disrupts fires. Under the regime of more frequent fires, obligate seeders have been removed or reduced in abundance from the forest matrix. This process may have also operated over evolutionary time-scales and resulted in convergence towards obligate seeding traits on outcrop fire shadows. In contrast, there may have been convergence towards sprouting in the forest matrix as a result of selection for persistence under a regime of frequent fire. [source]

Forest plant species richness in small, fragmented mixed deciduous forest patches: the role of area, time and dispersal limitation

Hans Jacquemyn
Aim The research aimed to investigate how plant species richness of small, fragmented forest patches changes over time. Also interactions between time and area were studied in relation to species richness. Finally, the relative importance of plant dispersal limitation on the process of species accumulation was examined by investigating how species were distributed within a regional landscape. Location Mixed deciduous forest patches in central Belgium. Methods The land use history of a region of 80 km2 was reconstructed using nine historical maps dating from 1775 to 1991. Within a central area of 42 km2, 241 forest patches were surveyed for presence/absence of 203 species predominantly occurring in forests. Aggregation of species within this region was estimated using a Monte Carlo simulation. Spatial and temporal patterns of species richness were investigated by both regression and analysis of variance (ANOVA). Results Fifty-one of 103 species showed significant spatial aggregation patterns, suggesting severe dispersal limitation. Species richness significantly increased with age. However, the effects of time on species richness could not be separated from area and area and time clearly interacted. Slopes of regression equations for species number on area and patch age were shown to be significantly interrelated. Main conclusions Area and time cannot be treated independently as predictors of plant species richness. Dispersal proved to be important in structuring local forest plant community composition, contrary to most other studies that have investigated local forest plant community structure. The processes of forest succession and species accumulation are controlled by both local and regional processes. More studies focusing on the regional factors determining local community composition are needed in order to fully understand the process of forest plant community assembly. [source]

Interactions between non-native plant species and the floristic composition of common habitats

Summary 1We investigated the role of non-native species (neophytes) in common British plant communities using botanical data from two stratified random surveys carried out in 1990 and 1998. 2We found that from 16 851 plots surveyed in 1998 there were 123 non-native species found mostly in arable, tall grass/herb and fertile grassland habitats. Invasive non-native species, e.g. Fallopia japonica, Impatiens glandulifera and Rhododendron ponticum, were uncommon in this survey. 3Between 1990 and 1998 the total number of non-native species increased but the mean number of species per sample plot decreased. The mean cover of non-natives increased from 1.2% to 1.9%. 4There were positive spatial and temporal relationships between non-native and native species diversity. However, there was a weak negative relationship between changes in non-native cover and native diversity. 5The species composition and ecological traits of communities containing non-natives were very different from those that did not contain them. 6In the British countryside non-native species were mainly found in habitats with anthropogenic associations, high fertility, high number of ruderal species and high diversity. There is also an indication that successional shifts where competitive invasive species dominate involve non-native species. 7National-scale changes in plant community composition are likely to be closely correlated with external land-use impacts. Changes such as eutrophication, nitrogen deposition and increased fertility in infertile habitats are likely to benefit both native and non-native invasive species; however, currently these trends benefit native species much more often than non-natives. 8Non-native species are known to have significant effects on native species at local scales in many countries; however, at the landscape scale in Great Britain they are best considered as symptoms of disturbance and land-use change rather than a direct threat to biodiversity. [source]

Plant species and functional group effects on abiotic and microbial soil properties and plant,soil feedback responses in two grasslands

Summary 1Plant species differ in their capacity to influence soil organic matter, soil nutrient availability and the composition of soil microbial communities. Their influences on soil properties result in net positive or negative feedback effects, which influence plant performance and plant community composition. 2For two grassland systems, one on a sandy soil in the Netherlands and one on a chalk soil in the United Kingdom, we investigated how individual plant species grown in monocultures changed abiotic and biotic soil conditions. Then, we determined feedback effects of these soils to plants of the same or different species. Feedback effects were analysed at the level of plant species and plant taxonomic groups (grasses vs. forbs). 3In the sandy soils, plant species differed in their effects on soil chemical properties, in particular potassium levels, but PLFA (phospholipid fatty acid) signatures of the soil microbial community did not differ between plant species. The effects of soil chemical properties were even greater when grasses and forbs were compared, especially because potassium levels were lower in grass monocultures. 4In the chalk soil, there were no effects of plant species on soil chemical properties, but PLFA profiles differed significantly between soils from different monocultures. PLFA profiles differed between species, rather than between grasses and forbs. 5In the feedback experiment, all plant species in sandy soils grew less vigorously in soils conditioned by grasses than in soils conditioned by forbs. These effects correlated significantly with soil chemical properties. None of the seven plant species showed significant differences between performance in soil conditioned by the same vs. other plant species. 6In the chalk soil, Sanguisorba minor and in particular Briza media performed best in soil collected from conspecifics, while Bromus erectus performed best in soil from heterospecifics. There was no distinctive pattern between soils collected from forb and grass monocultures, and plant performance could not be related to soil chemical properties or PLFA signatures. 7Our study shows that mechanisms of plant,soil feedback can depend on plant species, plant taxonomic (or functional) groups and site-specific differences in abiotic and biotic soil properties. Understanding how plant species can influence their rhizosphere, and how other plant species respond to these changes, will greatly enhance our understanding of the functioning and stability of ecosystems. [source]

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and water table affect wetland plant community composition

Summary 1Most studies of the community-level effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) have been conducted in upland grassland plant communities where a majority of the plant species are colonized by AMF. Here, we examine the effects of AMF on plant community composition in experimental wetland plant communities, where the dominant plant species are non-mycorrhizal and subordinate plant species are colonized by AMF. We also assess how an important abiotic soil variable, depth to water table (soil saturation), might mediate the community-level effects of AMF. 2In the low water table (un-saturated) treatment, above-ground plant biomass increased in the presence of AMF relative to the controls, while in the high water table treatment, biomass decreased with the presence of AMF. Contrary to predictions, plant diversity was unaffected by the presence of AMF in the low water table treatment, but significantly decreased in the presence of AMF in the high water table treatment. Changes in biomass and composition were driven by the interactions between the dominant non-mycorrhizal species Carex hystercina, and the remaining mycorrhizal plant species. 3Our results indicate that AMF have the potential to influence plant community composition in calcareous fens and that these effects can be mediated by soil saturation. 4This study has implications for understanding how established principles of above-ground/below-ground interactions from upland communities translate to wetland plant communities and for understanding how AMF function can be mediated by abiotic soil properties. Contrary to previous thought, AMF may be important drivers of plant community composition in wetland plant communities. [source]

Seed predation, not seed dispersal, explains the landscape-level abundance of an early-successional plant

Summary 1Plants may not occur in a given area if there are no suitable sites for seeds to establish (microsite limitation), if seeds fail to arrive in suitable microsites (dispersal limitation) or if seeds in suitable microsites are destroyed by predators (predator limitation). 2We conducted a large-scale study to determine the importance of dispersal limitation and predator limitation in affecting the distribution of pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, in 401-ha experimental patches arrayed in eight groups of five patches distributed across a 300-km2 region. 3Microsite limitation was minimized by clearcutting and burning existing vegetation, creating the type of disturbed habitat in which P. americana readily germinates and establishes. The role of dispersal limitation was examined by adding approximately 7000 seeds to each of eight patches in March 2000. The role of seed predation was examined in all 40 patches using experimental exclosures from June 2000 to July 2001. 4The number of P. americana plants in September 2000 was unchanged by seed addition. However, fewer P. americana plants were found in patches where seed predators removed more P. americana seeds from experimental exclosures. These data suggest that P. americana is not limited by seed dispersal. Rather, in habitats where microsites are readily available, the abundance of P. americana among patches appears to be limited by the activities of seed predators. 5When dispersal and microsites are not limiting, the role of local seed predators can be important for generating emergent, large-scale patterns of plant abundance across landscapes. Moreover, because predators may generate large-scale patterns that resemble other forms of limitation and predators may target specific species, predator impacts should be more frequently incorporated into experiments on the role of seed limitation and plant community composition. [source]

Wood-feeding beetles and soil nutrient cycling in burned forests: implications of post-fire salvage logging

Tyler P. Cobb
1Rising economic demands for boreal forest resources along with current and predicted increases in wildfire activity have increased salvage logging of burned forests. Currently, the ecological consequences of post-fire salvage logging are insufficiently understood to develop effective management guidelines or to adequately inform policy decision-makers. 2We used both field and laboratory studies to examine the effects of post-fire salvage logging on populations of the white-spotted sawyer Monochamus scutellatus scutellatus (Say) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) and its ecological function in boreal forest. 3Monochamus s. scutellatus adults were relatively abundant in both burned and clear-cut logged sites but were absent from salvage logged sites. 4An in situ mesocosm experiment showed that the abundance of M. s. scutellatus larvae in burned white spruce bolts was linked to changes in total organic nitrogen and carbon in mineral soil. 5Organic nutrient inputs in the form of M. s. scutellatus frass increased mineral soil microbial respiration rates by more than three-fold and altered the availability of nitrogen. Changes in nitrogen availability corresponded with decreased germination and growth of Epilobium angustifolium and Populus spp. but not Calamagrostis canadensis. 6Although the present study focused on local scale effects, the reported findings suggest that continued economic emphasis on post-fire salvage logging may have implications beyond the local scale for biodiversity conservation, nutrient cycling and plant community composition in forest ecosystems recovering from wildfire. [source]

The significance of small herbivores in structuring annual grassland

Halton A. Peters
Abstract Question: Herbivores can play a fundamental role in regulating the composition and structure of terrestrial plant communities. Relatively inconspicuous but nevertheless ubiquitous gastropods and small mammals are usually considered to influence grassland communities through distinct modes. 1. Do terrestrial gastropods and small mammals, either alone or in combination, influence plant community composition of an intact annual grassland? 2. Do these herbivores influence the plant size structure of the dominant grass Avena? Location: Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (37°24' N, 122° 13' W, elevation 150 m) in northern California. Methods: Animal exclosures were used to examine the single and combined influences of these herbivores on annual grassland production, community composition, and plant size structure during the growing season of an intact annual grassland. Results: The removal and exclusion of the herbivores increased the prevalence of grasses relative to legumes and non-legume forbs; increased total production of above-ground plant biomass; and increased mean plant size and exacerbated size hierarchies in populations of Avena. The effect of both gastropods and small mammals, alone and in combination, was characterized by temporal oscillations in the relative dominance of grasses in plots with vs. without herbivores. Conclusions: Both groups of herbivores are important controllers of California annual grassland that exert similar influences on production and composition. While other factors appear to determine the absolute number of individuals in this plant community, selective consumption of grasses by gastropods and small mammals partially offsets the competitive advantages associated with their early germination. [source]

The benefits of being in a bad neighbourhood: plant community composition influences red deer foraging decisions

OIKOS, Issue 1 2009
Jennie N. Bee
Diet selection by mammalian herbivores is often influenced by plant community composition, and numerous studies have focused on the relationships between herbivore foraging decisions and food/plant species abundance. However, few have examined the role of neighbour palatability in affecting foraging of a target plant by large mammalian herbivores. We used a large-scale field dataset on diet selection by red deer Cervus elaphus in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand to: (1) estimate the palatability of native forest plant species to introduced deer from observed patterns of browse damage; and (2) examine whether intraspecific variation in browsing of plants can be related to variation in the local abundance of alternative forage species. Overall, 21 of the 53 forest species in our dataset were never browsed by deer. At a community level, plants were more likely to be browsed if they were in a patch of vegetation of high forage quality, containing high abundances of highly palatable species and/or low abundances of less-palatable species. Our findings suggest that deer make foraging decisions at both a coarse-grain level, selecting vegetation patches within a landscape based on the overall patch quality, and at a fine-grain level by choosing among individual plants of different species. [source]

Above- and belowground insect herbivores differentially affect soil nematode communities in species-rich plant communities

OIKOS, Issue 6 2007
Gerlinde B. De Deyn
Interactions between above- and belowground invertebrate herbivores alter plant diversity, however, little is known on how these effects may influence higher trophic level organisms belowground. Here we explore whether above- and belowground invertebrate herbivores which alter plant community diversity and biomass, in turn affect soil nematode communities. We test the hypotheses that insect herbivores 1) alter soil nematode diversity, 2) stimulate bacterial-feeding and 3) reduce plant-feeding nematode abundances. In a full factorial outdoor mesocosm experiment we introduced grasshoppers (aboveground herbivores), wireworms (belowground herbivores) and a diverse soil nematode community to species-rich model plant communities. After two years, insect herbivore effects on nematode diversity and on abundance of herbivorous, bacterivorous, fungivorous and omni-carnivorous nematodes were evaluated in relation to plant community composition. Wireworms did not affect nematode diversity despite enhanced plant diversity, while grasshoppers, which did not affect plant diversity, reduced nematode diversity. Although grasshoppers and wireworms caused contrasting shifts in plant species dominance, they did not affect abundances of decomposer nematodes at any trophic level. Primary consumer nematodes were, however, strongly promoted by wireworms, while community root biomass was not altered by the insect herbivores. Overall, interaction effects of wireworms and grasshoppers on the soil nematodes were not observed, and we found no support for bottom-up control of the nematodes. However, our results show that above- and belowground insect herbivores may facilitate root-feeding rather than decomposer nematodes and that this facilitation appears to be driven by shifts in plant species composition. Moreover, the addition of nematodes strongly suppressed shoot biomass of several forb species and reduced grasshopper abundance. Thus, our results suggest that nematode feedback effects on plant community composition, due to plant and herbivore parasitism, may strongly depend on the presence of insect herbivores. [source]

Native harvester ants threatened with widespread displacement exert localized effects on serpentine grassland plant community composition

OIKOS, Issue 2 2005
Halton A. Peters
Seed-harvesting ants can influence the abundance and distribution of plant species through both the selective harvesting of seeds and the construction of nutrient-rich nest mounds, but the relative contributions of these two mechanisms have not been addressed by previous studies. Furthermore, the impact of ant seed harvesting in California serpentine grasslands remains unresolved because of divergent results from several previous experiments. This study investigates the influence of harvester ants on serpentine grassland plant species composition by examining two potential signatures of seed harvesting ants on plant community composition: species composition on versus off ant nest mounds, and species abundance as a function of distance from nest mounds. Of the 28 plant species identified in this study, 22 exhibited spatial patterns consistent with effects of seed harvesting, nest construction, or both. Although most species showed significant gradients in abundance with distance from a nest, there were no clear relationships between plant species distributions and previously reported harvester ant seed foraging patterns. Harvester ant nest mounds supported plant communities that were distinct from the surrounding serpentine grassland, with notably higher densities of legumes and invasive annual grasses. Comparison of our results with those of previous studies indicates that the patterns we observed are generally consistent over time, but affect more species and a larger fraction of the grassland than previously reported. Unaffected areas of the grassland seem likely to serve as important refuges for some plant species. [source]

Soil Organism and Plant Introductions in Restoration of Species-Rich Grassland Communities

Paul Kardol
Abstract Soil organisms can strongly affect competitive interactions and successional replacements of grassland plant species. However, introduction of whole soil communities as management strategy in grassland restoration has received little experimental testing. In a 5-year field experiment at a topsoil-removed ex-arable site (receptor site), we tested effects of (1) spreading hay and soil, independently or combined, and (2) transplanting intact turfs on plant and soil nematode community development. Material for the treatments was obtained from later successional, species-rich grassland (donor site). Spreading hay affected plant community composition, whereas spreading soil did not have additional effects. Plant species composition of transplanted turfs became less similar to that in the donor site. Moreover, most plants did not expand into the receiving plots. Soil spreading and turf transplantation did not affect soil nematode community composition. Unfavorable soil conditions (e.g., low organic matter content and seasonal fluctuations in water level) at the receptor site may have limited plant and nematode survival in the turfs and may have precluded successful establishment outside the turfs. We conclude that introduction of later successional soil organisms into a topsoil-removed soil did not facilitate the establishment of later successional plants, probably because of the "mismatch" in abiotic soil conditions between the donor and the receptor site. Further research should focus on the required conditions for establishment of soil organisms at restoration sites in order to make use of their contribution to grassland restoration. We propose that introduction of organisms from "intermediate" stages will be more effective as management strategy than introduction of organisms from "target" stages. [source]

Activated Carbon as a Restoration Tool: Potential for Control of Invasive Plants in Abandoned Agricultural Fields

Andrew Kulmatiski
Abstract Exotic plants have been found to use allelochemicals, positive plant,soil feedbacks, and high concentrations of soil nutrients to exercise a competitive advantage over native plants. Under laboratory conditions, activated carbon (AC) has shown the potential to reduce these advantages by sequestering organic compounds. It is not known, however, if AC can effectively sequester organics or reduce exotic plant growth under field conditions. On soils dominated by exotic plants, we found that AC additions (1% AC by mass in the top 10 cm of soil) reduced concentrations of extractable organic C and N and induced consistent changes in plant community composition. The cover of two dominant exotics, Bromus tectorum and Centaurea diffusa, decreased on AC plots compared to that on control plots (14,8% and 4,0.1%, respectively), and the cover of native perennial grasses increased on AC plots compared to that on control plots (1.4,3% cover). Despite promising responses to AC by these species, some exotic species responded positively to AC and some native species responded negatively to AC. Consequently, AC addition did not result in native plant communities similar to uninvaded sites, but AC did demonstrate potential as a soil-based exotic plant control tool, especially for B. tectorum and C. diffusa. [source]

Diminishing Spatial Heterogeneity in Soil Organic Matter across a Prairie Restoration Chronosequence

Diana R. Lane
Abstract Habitat restoration resulting in changes in plant community composition or species dominance can affect the spatial pattern and variability of soil nutrients. Questions about how these changes in soil spatial heterogeneity develop over time at restoration sites, however, remain unaddressed. In this study, a geostatistical approach was used to quantify changes over time in the spatial heterogeneity of soil organic matter (SOM) across a 26-year chronosequence of tallgrass prairie restoration sites at FermiLab, outside of Chicago, Illinois. We used total soil N and C as an index of the quantity of SOM. We also examined changes in C:N ratio, which can influence the turnover of SOM. Specifically, the spatial structure of total N, total C, and C:N ratio in the top 10 cm of soil was quantified at a macroscale (minimum spacing of 1.5 m) and a microscale (minimum spacing of 0.2 m). The magnitude of spatial heterogeneity (MSH) was characterized as the proportion of total sample variation explained by spatially structured variation. At the macroscale, the MSH for total N decreased with time since restoration (r2= 0.99, p < 0.001). The decrease in spatial heterogeneity over time corresponded with a significant increase in the dominance of the C4 grasses. At the microscale, there was significant spatial structure for total N at the 4-year-old, 16-year-old, and 26-year-old sites, and significant spatial structure for total C at the 16-year-old and 26-year-old sites. These results suggest that an increase in dominance of C4 grasses across the chronosequence is homogenizing organic matter variability at the field scale while creating fine-scale patterns associated with the spacing of vegetation. Areas of higher soil moisture were associated with higher soil N and C at the two oldest restoration sites and at the native prairie site, potentially suggesting patches of increased belowground productivity in areas of higher soil moisture. This study is one of the first to report significant changes over time in the spatial structure of organic matter in response to successional changes initiated by restoration. [source]

The relationship between soil seed bank, above-ground vegetation and disturbance intensity on old-field successional permanent plots

Michaela Dölle
Abstract Questions: How does disturbance and successional age influence richness, size and composition of the soil seed bank? What is the potential contribution of the soil seed bank to the plant community composition on sites differing in their successional age or disturbance intensity? Location: Experimental Botanical Garden of Göttingen University, central Germany. Methods: Above-ground vegetation and soil seed bank were studied on formerly arable fields in a 36-year-old permanent plot study with five disturbance intensities, ranging from yearly ploughing via mowing to long-term uninterrupted succession. We compared species compositions, seed densities and functional features of the seed bank and above-ground vegetation by using several methods in parallel. Results: The seed bank was mainly composed of early successional species typical of strongly disturbed habitats. The difference between seed bank composition and above-ground vegetation decreased with increasing disturbance intensity. The species of greatest quantitative importance in the seed bank was the non-native forb Solidago canadensis. Conclusions: The ability of a plant community to regenerate from the soil seed bank dramatically decreases with increasing time since abandonment (successional age) and with decreasing disturbance intensity. The present study underlines that plant species typical of grasslands and woodlands are limited by dispersal capacity, owing to low capacity for accumulation of seeds in the soil and the fact that most species do not build up persistent seed banks. Rare and target species were almost absent from the seed bank and will, after local elimination, depend on reintroduction for continuation of their presence. [source]

Effects of raised water levels on wet grassland plant communities

Sarah E. Toogood
Abstract Questions: What are the effects of raised water levels on wet grassland plant communities and dynamics? To what extent do time since raised water levels, vegetation management and water regime influence community composition? Location: Pevensey Levels, southeast England, UK. Methods: Plant communities and hydrology were monitored during 2001-03 within 23 wet grassland meadows and pastures where water levels had been raised for nature conservation at different times over 21 years. Community variations were examined using species abundance and ecological traits. Results: Water regime, measured as duration of flooding, groundwater level and soil moisture was significantly related to plant community variation. Communities were divided into grasslands where inundation was shallow (,8 cm) and relatively short (,3 months) and sites where deeper flooding was prolonged (,5 months), supporting a variety of wetland vegetation. With increasing wetness, sites were characterised by more bare ground and wetland plants such as sedges, helophytes and hydrophytes, and species with a stress-tolerating competitive strategy. All sites showed considerable annual dynamics, especially those with substantially raised water levels. There were no significant relationships between time since water levels were raised and plant community composition. Grassland management exerted a limited influence upon vegetation compared to water regime. Conclusions: Grassland plant communities are responsive to raised water levels and have potential for a rapid transition to wetland vegetation, irrespective of grazing or cutting management. Creation or restoration of wet grasslands by (re)wetting is feasible but challenging due to the high dynamism of wetland plant communities and the need for substantially raised water levels and prolonged flooding to produce significant community changes. [source]

Multi-scale sampling and statistical linear estimators to assess land use status and change

D. Rocchini
Abstract Question: Multi-temporal analysis of remotely sensed imagery has proven to be a powerful tool for assessment and monitoring of landscape diversity. Here the feasibility of assessing land-use diversity and land-use change was tested at multiple scales and over time by means of statistical linear estimators based on a probabilistic sampling design. Location: The study area (the district of Asciano, Tuscany, Italy) is characterized by erosional forms typical of Pliocene claystone (i.e. calanchi and biancane) that have been subject to the phenomenon of biancane reworking over the past 50 years, mainly owing to the expansion of intensive agriculture. Methods: Cells at two different scales (50 m × 50 m and 10 m × 10 m) were classified by two operators according to a multilevel legend, using 1954 and 2000 aerial photographs. Inter-operator agreement and accuracy were tested by Cohen's K coefficient. Total land cover estimation for each class was carried out using a multistage estimator, while the variance was estimated by means of the Wolter estimator. Field-based information on plant species composition was recorded in order to test for a relationship between land use and plant community composition by anova and indicator species analysis. Results: Agreement between photointerpreters and accuracy were significantly higher than those expected by chance, proving that the approach proposed is reproducible, as long as proper quality assurance methods are used. Our data show that, at the two scales considered (50 m × 50 m and 10 m × 10 m), crops have increased against woodlands and semi-natural areas, the latter showing the highest and significantly different mean species richness. Meanwhile, an increase in the coverage of trees and shrubs was found within the semi-natural areas, probably as a result of secondary succession occurring on typical landscape elements such as biancane. Conclusions: Inferential statistics made it possible to acquire quantitative information on the abundance of land cover classes, allowing formal multi-temporal and multi-scale analysis. Sampling design-based statistical linear estimators were found to be a powerful tool for assessing landscape trends considering both time expenditure and other costs. They make it possible to maintain the same scale of analysis over time series data and to detect both coarse- and fine-grained changes in spatial patterns. [source]

The influence of hydrological regime and grazing management on the plant communities of a karst wetland (Skealoghan turlough) in Ireland

J. Moran
Abstract Question: What is the influence of hydrological regime, soils and management on the plant community composition and species richness of Skealoghan turlough (groundwater dependent calcareous wetland). Location: Skealoghan turlough, County Mayo, Ireland. Methods: Percentage cover of vascular plants and bryophytes were recorded, and data on hydrological regimes, soils and management were collected. Data were analysed using multivariate statistical techniques. Results: A total of 69 species of vascular plants and mosses were recorded. Cluster analysis grouped the samples into two separate communities, the Cirsio-Molinietum and the Ranunculo-Potentilletum anserinae plant communities. The plant community composition and species richness followed a main gradient down into the turlough basin, but also varied with microtopography, resulting in a mosaic of vegetation types. Conclusions: The biodiversity and conservation value of the site is linked to the heterogeneity in its physical environment in which hydrology, soils and grazing management all play critical roles. [source]

Grazing without grasses: Effects of introduced livestock on plant community composition in an arid environment in northern Patagonia

Mariana Tadey
Abstract Question: How does grazing intensity affect plant density, cover and species richness in an Patagonian arid ecosystem? Location: Monte steppe ecoregion, SW Argentina. Methods: I analysed the effect of grazing on plant density, cover and species richness using a stocking rate gradient within the same habitat. Six paddocks were used with stocking rates ranging between 0.002 , 0.038 livestock/ha. Plant density, species richness, plant cover and percentage of grazed branches were determined by sampling plots within each paddock. The percentage of grazed branches was used as an independent measurement of grazing intensity. Results: Higher stocking rates were related to lower plant density, species richness and plant cover. The paddock with the lowest grazing intensity had 86% more plants per unit area, 63% more plant cover and 48% higher species richness. The percentage of grazed branches and the quantity of dung increased with stocking rate. Conclusions: Introduced livestock seriously affect native vegetation in the Patagonian Monte. The damage observed in this xerophytic plant community suggests that plant adaptations to aridity do not provide an advantage to tolerate or avoid grazing by vertebrate herbivores in this region. Plant degradation in this arid environment is comparable to the degradation found in more humid ecosystems. [source]

Direct and indirect effects of climate on decomposition in native ecosystems from central Argentina

Abstract Climate affects litter decomposition directly through temperature and moisture, determining the ecosystem potential decomposition, and indirectly through its effect on plant community composition and litter quality, determining litter potential decomposition. It would be expected that both the direct and indirect effects of climate on decomposition act in the same direction along gradients of actual evapotranspiration (AET). However, studies from semiarid ecosystems challenge this idea, suggesting that the climatic conditions that favour decomposition activity, and the consequent ecosystem potential decomposition, do not necessarily lead to litter being easier to decompose. We explored the decomposition patterns of four arid to subhumid native ecosystems with different AET in central-western Argentina and we analysed if ecosystem potential decomposition (climatic direct effect), nutrient availability and leaf litter potential decomposition (climatic indirect effect) all increased with AET. In general, the direct effect of climate (AET) on decomposition (i.e. ecosystem potential decomposition), showed a similar pattern to nutrient availability in soils (higher for xerophytic and mountain woodlands and lower for the other ecosystems), but different from the pattern of leaf litter potential decomposition. However, the range of variation in the ecosystem potential decomposition was much higher than the range of variation in litter potential decomposition, indicating that the direct effect of climate on decomposition was far stronger than the indirect effect through litter quality. Our results provide additional experimental evidence supporting the direct control of climate over decomposition, and therefore nutrient cycling. For the ecosystems considered, those with the highest AET are the ecosystems with the highest potential decomposition. But what is more interesting is that our results suggest that the indirect control of climate over decomposition through vegetation characteristics and decomposability does not follow the same trend as the direct effect of climate. This finding has important implications in the prediction of the effects of climate change on semiarid ecosystems. [source]

Nutrient Limitation to Primary Productivity in a Secondary Savanna in Venezuela1

BIOTROPICA, Issue 4 2002
Nichole N. Barger
ABSTRACT We examined nutrient limitation to primary productivity in a secondary savanna in the interior branch of the Coastal Range of Venezuela, which was converted from forest to savanna more than 100 years ago. We manipulated soil nutrients by adding nitrogen (+N), phosphorus and potassium (+PK), and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (+NPK) to intact savanna. Eleven months after fertilization, we measured aboveground biomass and belowground biomass as live fine roots in the top 20 cm of soil, and species and functional group composition in response to nutrient additions. Aboveground biomass was highest in the NPK treatment ([mean g/m2]; control = 402, +N = 718, +PK = 490, +NPK = 949). Aboveground production, however, appeared to be limited primarily by N. Aboveground biomass increased 78 percent when N was added alone but did not significantly respond to PK additions when compared to controls. In contrast to aboveground biomass, belowground biomass increased with PK additions but showed no significant increase with N (depth 0,20 cm; [mean g/m2]; control = 685, +N = 443, +PK = 827, +NPK = 832). There was also a 36 percent increase in root length with PK additions when compared to controls. Whole savanna shoot:root ratios were similar for control and +PK (0.6), while those for +N or +NPK fertilization were significantly higher (1.7 and 1.2, respectively). Total biomass response (above + belowground) to nutrient additions showed a strong N and PK co-limitation ([mean g/m2]; control = 1073, +N = 1111, +PK = 1258, +NPK = 1713). Aboveground biomass of all monocots increased with N additions, whereas dicots showed no response to nutrient additions. Trachypogon spp. (T. plumosus+T. vestitus) and Axonopus canescens, the two dominant grasses, made up more than 89 percent of the total aboveground biomass in these sites. Trachypogon spp. responded to NPK, whereas A. canescens, sedges, and the remaining monocots only responded to N. Even though nutrient additions resulted in higher aboveground biomass in N and NPK fertilized plots, this had little effect on plant community composition. With the exception of sedges, which responded positively to N additions and increased from 4 to 8 percent of die plant community, no changes were observed in plant community composition after 11 months. RESUMEN En este estudio se examinaron las limitaciones nutricionales en la productividad primatia de una sabana secundaria de más de 100 años localizada en el brazo interior de la Cordillera de la Costa de Venezuela. Se manipularon los nutrientes del suelo mediante la adición de nitrógeno (+N), fósforo y potasio (+PK), y nitrógeno, fósforo, y potasio (+NPK) al suelo de la sabana. Después de once meses de iniciarse los experimentos se midió la respuesta a la adición de nutrientes en términos de producción de biomasa aérea, biomasa de raíces finas vivas en los primeros 20 cm de suelo, y cambios en la composición de especies y grupos funcionales. La biomasa aérea fue mayor en las parcelas fertilizadas con N o en combinación de NPK ([promedio g/m2]; control = 402, +N = 718, +PK = 490, +NPK = 949) indicando que la producción aéiea está limitada principalmente por N. No hubo respuesta estadísticamente significativa a la adición de PK con respecto a los controles. La biomasa de raíces finas aumentó con la adición de PK y NPK mientras que no hubo aumento significativo con N (Profundidad 0,20 cm; [promedio g/m2]; control=685, +N=443, +PK=827, +NPK=832). La adición de PK modificó la arquitectura radical con un anmento de 36 por ciento en la longitud de las raíces con respecto al control. La relación vástago/raíz fue similar en los tratmientos controly + PK (0.6), pero significativamente mayor en +N (1.7)y +NPK(1.2) indicando nuevamente una limitación principal por N. La respuesta de la biomasa total (vástago +raíces vivas) a la adición de nutrientes refleja una colimitación de N y PK ([promedio g/m2]; control=1073, +N=1111, +PK+1258,+NPK=1713). La biomasa aérea de las monocotiledóneas aumentó de N, mientras que no hubo respuesta significativa a la adición de nutrientes en las dicotiledóneas. Trachypogon spp (T. Plumosus+T. vestitus) and Axonopus canescens, las dos gramíneas dominantes, representaron más del 89 por ciento de la biomasa total en las parcelas. Trachypogon spp respondieron a NPK, mientras que A. canescens, cuoeráceas, y las otras monocotiledóneas sólo respondieron a N. No hubo cambios significativos en la composición de especies como respuesta a la adición de nutrientes, con la excepción de las ciperáceas que respondieron significativamente a la adición de N con un aumento de 4 a 8 por ciento. [source]