Plant Ecology

, Volume 178, Issue 2, pp 201–209

Evidence for community assembly constraints during succession in dune slack plant communities



Community assembly during succession can be constrained by both local and regional factors. Despite an increasing regional species pool size during succession, we found a limit on the number of species in 1 × 1 m plots in dune slacks. Three alternative hypotheses (habitat heterogeneity, dispersal limitation and niche limitation) explaining this community saturation were tested. A null model analysis showed that species richness in the plots had an unusually low variance suggesting that beta habitat diversity was not likely to explain the limitation on species richness. Because we did not find a correlation between the distribution of species over the slack and their dispersal capacity, we also excluded the dispersal limitation hypothesis. Finally, a guild proportionality analysis revealed that the abundances of forb, graminoid and ruderal species showed low an unusually low variance over all age classes involved. This provides evidence for nonrandom community assembly during succession, likely to be determined by competitive exclusion among species of the same guild.


Assembly rules Community saturation Guild proportionality Niche Null model analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Department of BiologyGhent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.Laboratory for Forest, Nature and Landscape ResearchUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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