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Species evenness affects ecosystem processes in situ via diversity in the adaptive strategies of dominant species

Abstract

Community biomass production reflects species evenness (relative abundance), suggesting that particular adaptive/survival strategies contribute disproportionately to ecosystem processes. We hypothesized that diversity in the strategies of dominant species would be a better predictor of biomass production than species diversity per se. We compared species diversity, strategy diversity, peak biomass, soil and leaf nutrient status, and leaf area index (LAI) in situ for related sub-alpine plant communities differing only in the intensity of cattle grazing and manuring; with identical climatic exposure, slope, aspect and parent material. Greater total biomass was associated with greater strategy richness and evenness and, to a lesser extent, species evenness—but species richness and aboveground biomass were not significantly different. Diversity in the adaptive strategies of dominant species allowed more effective deployment of canopy biomass (greater LAI), providing superior photosynthetic nutrient use efficiencies and greater total biomass despite lower nutrient status. This was reflected in species evenness, but not species richness.

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Acknowledgements

The study was funded by the Native Flora Centre of the Lombardy Region (CFA) and the University of Insubria. SP was funded by a research fellowship (assegno di ricerca) from the Italian government.

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Correspondence to Simon Pierce.

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Cerabolini, B., Pierce, S., Luzzaro, A. et al. Species evenness affects ecosystem processes in situ via diversity in the adaptive strategies of dominant species. Plant Ecol 207, 333–345 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-009-9677-1

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Keywords

  • Alpha-diversity
  • CSR theory
  • Plant functional type
  • Sub-alpine prairie
  • Standing crop