, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 2337-2352
Date: 03 Mar 2013

Factors driving plant rarity in dry grasslands on different spatial scales: a functional trait approach

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Abstract

In European dry grasslands land-use changes affect plant species performance and frequency. Potential driving forces are eutrophication and habitat fragmentation. The importance of these factors is presumably scale dependent. We used a functional trait approach to detect processes that influence species frequency and endangerment on different spatial scales. We tested for associations between functional traits and (1) frequency and (2) degree of endangerment on local, regional and national scales. We focussed on five selected traits that describe the life-history of plant species and that are related to competition, dispersal ability and habitat specificity. Trait data on plant height, SLA, plant coverage, peak of flowering and diaspore mass were measured for 28 perennials from common to rare and endangered to non-endangered on 59 dry grassland sites in north-eastern Germany. Multiple regression models revealed that species frequency is positively and species endangerment negatively related to plant height, plant coverage and SLA on more than one spatial scale. On the local scale, diaspore mass has a negative effect on species frequency. More frequent and less endangered species show a later peak of flowering on nationwide and regional scales. We concluded that competition traits are more important on larger scales, whereas dispersal traits are more important for species frequency on the smaller scale. On national and regional scales, eutrophication and habitat loss may be the main drivers of species threat, whereas on the local scale fragmentation plays a crucial role for the performance of dry grassland species.