Impact of land use intensity and temperature on the reproductive performance of Dactylis glomerata populations in the southeastern Alps
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- Dainese, M. Plant Ecol (2011) 212: 651. doi:10.1007/s11258-011-9902-6
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An understanding of the processes and environmental conditions governing spatial variation in reproductive performance of plants can provide important information about the factors characterizing plant community structure and influencing fitness in natural plant populations, especially in the context of climate and land use change. In this study, 60 mountain populations of Dactylis glomerata distributed along a fertilization regime in varying grassland hay meadows were evaluated. Variations in field management, climate, soil fertility, vegetation structure, population density and species richness on reproductive performance were examined. The results indicated that field management and soil nutrient availability are the main variables influencing population density and reproductive output of D. glomerata. Moreover, the results show the effect of temperature on seed mass and resource investment in reproduction. Climate and soil change suggest a morphological differentiation of reproductive traits: (i) individuals grown on sites with higher soil nutrient availability or nutrient supply have larger inflorescences with a greater number and heavier seeds; (ii) individuals grown on warmer sites have heavier seeds. We conclude that if the climate warms and increases land use intensification in hay meadows in the Alps, this will have a pronounced positive impact on the reproductive performance of D. glomerata. Moreover, it can be hypothesized that the migration potential of D. glomerata towards higher altitudes may be likely in the near future in response to accelerated climate change.