The plant functional traits that explain species occurrence across fragmented grasslands differ according to patch management, isolation, and wetness
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- Janečková, P., Janeček, Š., Klimešová, J. et al. Landscape Ecol (2017). doi:10.1007/s10980-017-0486-y
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Landscape fragmentation significantly affects species distributions by decreasing the number and connectivity of suitable patches. While researchers have hypothesized that species functional traits could help in predicting species distribution in a landscape, predictions should depend on the type of patches available and on the ability of species to disperse and grow there.
To explore whether different traits can explain the frequency of grassland species (number of occupied patches) and/or their occupancy (ratio of occupied to suitable patches) across a variety of patch types within a fragmented landscape.
We sampled species distributions over 1300 grassland patches in a fragmented landscape of 385 km2 in the Czech Republic. Relationships between functional traits and species frequency and occupancy were tested across all patches in the landscape, as well as within patches that shared similar management, wetness, and isolation.
Although some traits predicting species frequency also predicted occupancy, others were markedly different, with competition- and dispersal-related traits becoming more important for occupancy. Which traits were important differed for frequency and occupancy and also differed depending on patch management, wetness, and isolation.
Plant traits can provide insight into plant distribution in fragmented landscapes and can reveal specific abiotic, biotic, and dispersal processes affecting species occurrence in a patch type. However, the importance of individual traits depends on the type of suitable patches available within the landscape.