, Volume 188, Issue 2, pp 547–557 | Cite as

Shifts in functional trait–species abundance relationships over secondary subalpine meadow succession in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau

  • Hui Zhang
  • Robert John
  • Shidan Zhu
  • Hui Liu
  • Qiuyuan Xu
  • Wei Qi
  • Kun Liu
  • Han Y. H. Chen
  • Qing YeEmail author
Community ecology – original research


Although trait-based processes of community assembly during secondary succession invokes multiple factors that ultimately determine the presence or absence of a species, little is known regarding the impacts of functional traits on species abundance in successional plant communities. Here in species-rich subalpine secondary successional meadows of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, we measured photosynthesis rate and leaf proline content that are related to plant growth and abiotic stress resistance, respectively, and seed germination rate that is closely correlated with plant germination strategy to test their influence on species abundance during succession. We used a linear mixed effects model framework to examine the shifts in trait–abundance relationships and the correlations among these three traits in successional communities. We observed significant shifts in trait–abundance relationships during succession, e.g., abundant species in early-successional meadows exhibited relatively high photosynthesis rates and leaf proline content, but showed low seed germination rates, whereas the converse were true in late successional communities. However, the correlations among the three traits were insignificant in most meadow communities. Our results show that functional traits associated with plant growth, stress resistance, and reproduction impose strong influence on species abundance during secondary subalpine meadow succession in the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau.


Functional traits Linear mixed effects model Species abundance Succession Trait–abundance relationship 



This work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31770469, 31300334 and 31770448), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) through its CAS/SAFEA International Partnership Program for Creative Research Teams and Visiting Fellowship for Researchers from Developing countries (2014FFSA0001).

Author contribution statement

HZ and QY designed research; SDZ, HL, QYX, WQ, KL, QY and HZ performed research; HZ and RJ analyzed data; QY, HZ, HYHC and RJ wrote the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

442_2018_4230_MOESM1_ESM.doc (2.4 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 2409 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded EcosystemsSouth China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Applied BotanySouth China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesIndian Institute of Science Education and Research, KolkataMohanpurIndia
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems, School of Life SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  6. 6.Faculty of Natural Resources ManagementLake head UniversityThunder BayCanada

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