Relationship between species relative abundance and plant traits for an infertile habitat
- Cite this article as:
- Reader, R.J. Plant Ecology (1998) 134: 43. doi:10.1023/A:1009700100343
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This study tested whether differences in species abundance at an infertile site could be explained by differences in the species' plant traits. Nine traits were chosen for the analysis based on results of previous studies conducted across soil fertility gradients. The traits were measured for each of seven herbaceous species whose abundance ranged from 5% to 100% of locations occupied in a ridgetop habitat. Using linear regression, significant relationships were found between species relative abundance and each of five traits. In these relationships, a trait explained between 69% and 88% of interspecific variation in abundance. Relatively abundant species had a slower growth rate, smaller shoot mass, higher root to shoot ratio, slower loss of leaf tissue to herbivores and higher infection of roots by mycorrhizal fungi than less abundant species. Using three of these five traits (i.e. shoot mass, mycorrhizal infection and loss of leaf tissue to herbivores) as independent variables in a multiple regression equation explained 99% of interspecific variation in abundance. The latter result indicates that species relative abundance can be explained for a single habitat by choosing traits found to be related to species abundance in previous gradient studies. However, not every trait chosen was significantly related to species abundance. Therefore, a large number of traits may have to be chosen initially to ensure that some subset of these traits can explain species relative abundance.