How reproductive, vegetative and defensive strategies of Mediterranean grassland species respond to a grazing intensity gradient
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- De Miguel, J.M., Casado, M.A., Del Pozo, A. et al. Plant Ecol (2010) 210: 97. doi:10.1007/s11258-010-9741-x
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We analysed the morpho-functional response of grassland species to a grazing intensity gradient (1–3.5 sheep ha−1) in the Mediterranean-type climate region of Chile. A total of nine morpho-functional traits (with a total of 24 attributes) were determined for 79 herbaceous plant species. Valuation of the traits enabled calculation of the reproductive, vegetative and defensive potentials for each species. A classification analysis for species x potentials identified five groups of plant functional strategies, and we analysed their responses along a grazing intensity gradient both for native and non-native species. The defensive potential of the species was negatively correlated with reproductive but was not significant in relation to vegetative potential. Grazing intensification favoured the presence of species with high defensive potential, to the detriment of those with high reproductive potential. This process affected both native and non-native species, but was more intense in the former presenting higher defensive potential. The functional group with a higher defensive strategy showed an increase in relative frequency with grazing intensity. However, self-defence alone is insufficient. This group also presents a certain reproductive potential that ensures the persistence of its annual or biennial species. The functional group combining high reproductive and vegetative potentials is the one that exhibits the biggest decrease in relative frequency due to intensified grazing. This group, however, is dominant in all the stocking treatments. All the functional groups identified include both native and non-native species, although the former dominate in those with greater defensive potential.