, Volume 168, Issue 3, pp 773-783
Date: 29 Sep 2011

Linking landscape history and dispersal traits in grassland plant communities

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Dispersal limitation and long-term persistence are known to delay plant species’ responses to habitat fragmentation, but it is still unclear to what extent landscape history may explain the distribution of dispersal traits in present-day plant communities. We used quantitative data on long-distance seed dispersal potential by wind and grazing cattle (epi- and endozoochory), and on persistence (adult plant longevity and seed bank persistence) to quantify the linkages between dispersal and persistence traits in grassland plant communities and current and past landscape configurations. The long-distance dispersal potential of present-day communities was positively associated with the amounts of grassland in the historical (1835, 1938) landscape, and with a long continuity of grazing management—but was not associated with the properties of the current landscape. The study emphasises the role of history as a determinant of the dispersal potential of present-day grassland plant communities. The importance of long-distance dispersal processes has declined in the increasingly fragmented modern landscape, and long-term persistent species are expected to play a more dominant role in grassland communities in the future. However, even within highly fragmented landscapes, long-distance dispersed species may persist locally—delaying the repayment of the extinction debt.

Communicated by Meelis Partel.