Local versus regional intraspecific variability in regeneration traits
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Intraspecific trait variability has a fundamental contribution to the overall trait variability. However, little is known concerning the relative role of local (e.g. disturbances and species interaction) and regional (biogeographical) processes in generating this intraspecific trait variability. While biogeographical processes enhance plant trait variability between distant populations, in fire-prone ecosystems, recurrent fires may have a preponderant role in generating variability at a local scale. We hypothesize that plants respond to the local spatio-temporal heterogeneity generated by fire by having a relatively large local variability in regeneration traits in such a way that overrides the variability at a broader biogeographical scale. We test this hypothesis by assessing the intraspecific variability in fire-related regeneration traits of two species (Cistus salviifolius and Lavandula stoechas) growing in fire-prone ecosystems of the Mediterranean Basin. For each species, we selected six populations in two distant regions, three in the east (Anatolian Peninsula) and three in the west (Iberian Peninsula). For each species and population, we analysed the following regeneration traits: seed size, seed dormancy and stimulated germination by fire-related cues (heat and smoke). To evaluate the distribution of the variability in these traits, we decomposed the variability of trait values at each level, between regions (regional) and between population within region (local), using linear mixed-effect models. Despite the biogeographical and climatic differences between regions, for the two species, intraspecific variability in regeneration traits was higher at a local (within regions) than at a regional scale (between regions). Our results suggest that, in Mediterranean ecosystems, fire is an important source of intraspecific variability in regeneration traits. This supports the prominent role of fire as an ecological and evolutionary process, producing trait variability and shaping biodiversity in fire-prone ecosystems.
KeywordsFire Mediterranean ecosystems Germination traits Seed traits Spatial scale
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