Plant Ecology

, Volume 212, Issue 9, pp 1491–1499

Using plant functional traits to explain community composition across a strong environmental filter in Australian alpine snowpatches

  • Susanna E. Venn
  • Ken Green
  • Catherine M. Pickering
  • John W. Morgan
Article

Abstract

Environmental filters act to limit the local community assemblage from the regional species pool by restricting the viable trait states that can occur there. In alpine snowpatches, the timing of snowmelt is a strong environmental filter. In coming decades, the strength of this filter is likely to relax with global climate change. We used three continuous plant functional traits (leaf area, plant height, seed mass) and their divergence (using the FDvar index) to document current patterns of community assembly and predict plant community responses to future environmental filters in alpine snowpatch vegetation. The community trait-weighted mean for leaf area and height, but not seed mass, was significantly higher in early snowmelt zones relative to mid and late melting zones across all snowpatches. Mean FDvar for height (but not leaf area or seed mass), by contrast, was substantially lower in early snowmelt zones, indicating that species growing in early melt zones are consistently taller than those growing in other zones. These results suggest that if climate change leads to earlier snowmelt and hence, a longer growing season, taller (more competitive) species with larger leaf areas (more productive) may replace short species in snowpatches as these plant communities re-assemble in response to changing environmental filters.

Keywords

Community assembly Climate change Declining snow cover Australia 

References

  1. Atkin OK, Collier DE (1992) Relationship between soil nitrogen and floristic variation in late snow areas of the Koscuisko alpine region. Aust J Bot 40:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bannister P, Maegli T, Dickinson KJM, Halloy SRP, Knight A, Lord JM, Mark AF, Spenser KL (2005) Will loss of snow cover during climatic warming expose New Zealand alpine plants to increased frost damage? Oecologia 144:245–256PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baptist F, Choler P (2008) A simulation of the importance of length of growing season and canopy functional properties on the seasonal gross primary production of temperate alpine meadows. Ann Bot 101:549–559PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baptist F, Flahaut C, Streb P, Choler P (2010) No increase in alpine snowbed productivity in response to experimental lengthening of the growing season. Plant Biol. doi:10.1111/j.1438-8677.2009.00286.x
  5. Björk RG, Molau U (2007) Ecology of alpine snowbeds and the impact of global change. Arct Antarct Alp Res 39:34–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Canaday BB, Fonda RW (1974) The influence of subalpine snowbanks on vegetation pattern, production and phenology. Bull Torrey Bot Club 101:340–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Choler P (2005) Consistent shifts in alpine plant traits along a mesotopographical gradient. Arct Antarct Alp Res 37:444–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cornelissen JHC, Lavorel S, Garnier E, Diaz S, Buchman N, Gurvich DE, Reich PB, ter Steege H, Morgan HD, van der Heijden MGA, Pausas JG, Poorter H (2003) A handbook of protocols for standardised and easy measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Aust J Bot 51:335–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cornwell WK, Ackerly DD (2009) Community assembly and shifts in the distribution of functional trait values across an environmental gradient in coastal California. Ecol Monogr 79:109–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costin AB (1954) A study of the ecosystems of the Monaro region of New South Wales with special reference to soil erosion. Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  11. Costin AB, Gray M, Totterdell CJ, Wimbush DJ (2000) Kosciuszko alpine flora. CSIRO, MelbourneGoogle Scholar
  12. Cumming G, Finch S (2005) Inference by eye—confidence intervals and how to read pictures of data. Am Psychol 60:170–180PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Díaz S, Cabido M (2001) Vive la difference: plant functional diversity matters to ecosystem processes. Trends Ecol Evol 16:646–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Díaz S, Marcelo C, Fernando C (1998) Plant functional traits and environmental filters at a regional scale. J Veg Sci 9:113–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edmonds T, Lunt ID, Roshier DA, Louis J (2006) Annual variation in the distribution of summer snowdrifts in the Kosciuszko alpine area, Australia, and its effect on the composition and structure of alpine vegetation. Austral Ecol 31:837–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Edwards AC, Scalenghe R, Freppaz M (2007) Changes in the seasonal snow cover of alpine regions and its effect on soil processes: a review. Quat Int 162–163:172–181CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ernst R, Linsenmair KE, Rodel M-O (2006) Diversity erosion beyond the species level: dramatic loss of functional diversity after selective logging in two tropical amphibian communities. Biol Conserv 133:143–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Flynn DB, Gogol-Prokurat M, Nogeire T, Molinari N, Trautman Richers B, Lin BB, Simpson N, Mayfield MM, Declerck F (2009) Loss of functional diversity under land use intensification across multiple taxa. Ecol Lett 12:22–33PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Galen C, Stanton ML (1995) Responses of snowbed plant species to changes in growing season length. Ecology 76:1546–1557CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Good RB (1992) Kosciusko heritage. The National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  21. Green K, Pickering CM (2009a) The decline of snowpatches in the Snowy Mountains of Australia: importance of climate warming, variable snow, and wind. Arct Antarct Alp Res 41:212–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Green K, Pickering CM (2009b) Vegetation, microclimate and soils associated with the latest lying snowpatches in Australia. Plant Ecol Divers 2:289–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grime JP (1973) Competitive exclusion in herbaceous vegetation. Nature 242:344–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Grime JP (2001) Plant strategies, vegetation processes and ecosystem properties, 2nd edn. Wiley, ChichesterGoogle Scholar
  25. Hennessey K, Whetton P, Smith I, Bathols J, Hutchinson M, Sharples J (2003) The impact of climate change on snow conditions in mainland Australia. CSIRO Atmospheric Research, AspendaleGoogle Scholar
  26. Holler P, Fromm R, Leitinger G (2009) Snow forces on forest plants due to creep and glide. For Ecol Manag 257:546–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Inouye DW (2008) Effects of climate change on phenology, frost damage and floral abundance of montane wildflowers. Ecology 89:353–362PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Inouye DW, McGuire AD (1991) Effects of snowpack on timing and abundance of flowering in Delphinium nelsonii (Ranunculaceae): implications of climate change. Am J Bot 78:997–1001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jarrad FC, Wahren C-H, Williams RJ, Burgman MA (2009) Subalpine plants show short-term positive growth responses to experimental warming and fire. Aust J Bot 57:465–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Keddy PA (1992) Assembly and response rules: two goals for predictive community ecology. Science 3:157–164Google Scholar
  31. Kudo G (1991) Effects of snow-free period on the phenology of alpine plants inhabiting snowpatches. Arct Antarct Alp Res 23:436–443Google Scholar
  32. Lepš J, de Bello F (2008) Macro for calculation of functional diversity. University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic. http://botanika.bf.jcu.cz/suspa.FunctDiv.php. Accessed 14 Jul 2009
  33. Lepš J, de Bello F, Lavorel S, Berman S (2006) Quantifying and interpreting functional diversity of natural communities: practical considerations matter. Preslia 78:481–501Google Scholar
  34. Mason NWH, MacGillivray K, Steel JB, Wilson JB (2003) An index of functional diversity. J Veg Sci 14:571–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mason NWH, Mouillot D, Lee WG, Wilson JB (2005) Functional richness, functional evenness and functional divergence: the primary components of functional diversity. Oikos 111:112–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mayfield MM, Boni MJF, Daily GC, Ackerly D (2005) Species and functional diversity of native and human-dominated plant communities. Ecology 89:2365–2372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mayfield MM, Bonser SP, Morgan JW, Aubin I, McNamara S, Vesk PA (2010) What does species richness tell us about functional trait diversity? Predictions and evidence for species and functional trait diversity responses to land-use change. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 19:423–431Google Scholar
  38. McCune B, Mefford MJ (1999) PC-ORD for Windows. Multivariate analysis of ecological data. MjM Software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  39. McGill BJ, Enquist BJ, Weiher E, Westoby M (2006) Rebuilding community ecology from functional traits. Trends Ecol Evol 21:178–185PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moles AT, Ackerly DD, Tweddle JC, Dickie JB, Smith R, Leishman MR, Mayfield MM, Pitman A, Wood JT, Westoby M (2007) Global patterns in seed size. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 16:109–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mouillot D, Mason NWH, Dumay O, Wilson JB (2005) Functional regularity: a neglected aspect of functional diversity. Oecologia 142:353–359PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Myers JA, Harms KE (2009) Seed arrival, ecological filters, and plant species richness: a meta-analysis. Ecol Lett 12:1250–1260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Onipchenko VG, Semenova GV, van der Maarel E (1998) Population strategies in severe environments: alpine plants in the northwestern Caucasus. J Veg Sci 9:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Petchey OL, Gaston KJ (2006) Functional diversity: back to basics and looking forward. Ecol Lett 9:741–758PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pluess AR, Schütz W, Stöcklin J (2005) Seed weight increases with altitude in the Swiss Alps between related species but not among populations of individual species. Oecologia 144:55–61PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Prinzing A, Reiffers R, Braakhekke WG, Hennekens SM, Tackenberg O, Ozinga WA, Schaminée JHJ, Van Groenendael J (2008) Less lineages—more trait variation: phylogenetically clustered plant communities are functionally more diverse. Ecol Lett 11:809–819PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Schöb C, Kammer PM, Choler P, Veit H (2009) Small-scale plant species distribution in snowbeds and its sensitivity to climate change. Plant Ecol 200:91–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Venn SE, Morgan JW (2007) Phytomass and phenology of three alpine snowpatch species across a natural snowmelt gradient. Aust J Bot 55:450–456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Venn SE, Morgan JW (2009) Patterns in alpine seedling emergence and establishment across a stress gradient of mountain summits in south-eastern Australia. Plant Ecol Divers 2:5–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Venn SE, Morgan JW, Green PT (2009) Do facilitative interactions with neighboring plants assist the growth of seedlings at high altitudes in alpine Australia? Arct Antarct Alp Res 41:381–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Villeger S, Mason NWH, Mouillot D (2008) New multidimensional functional diversity indices for a multifaceted framework in functional ecology. Ecology 89:2290–2301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wahren C-H, Williams RJ, Papst WA (2001) Alpine and subalpine snow patch vegetation on the Bogong High Plains, SE Australia. J Veg Sci 12:779–790CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walker DA, Halfpenny JC, Walker MC, Wessman CA (1993) Long-term studies of snow-vegetation interactions. Bioscience 43:287–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weiher E, von der Werf A, Thompson K, Roderick M, Garnier E, Eriksson O (1999) Challenging Theophrastus: a common core list of plant traits for functional ecology. J Veg Sci 10:609–620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Westoby M (1998) A leaf-height-seed (LHS) plant ecology strategy scheme. Plant Soil 199:213–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Westoby M, Falster DS, Moles AT, Vesk PA, Wright IJ (2002) Plant ecological strategies: some leading dimensions of variation between species. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 33:125–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Whetton PH (1998) Climate change impacts on the spatial extent of snow-cover in the Australian Alps. In: Green K (ed) Snow: a natural history; an uncertain future. Australian Alps Liaison Committee, Canberra, pp 195–206Google Scholar
  58. Williams RJ (1987) Patterns of air temperature and accumulation of snow in subalpine heathlands and grasslands on the Bogong High Plains, Victoria. Aust J Ecol 12:153–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Williams RJ (1990) Growth of sub-alpine shrubs and snowgrass following a rare occurrence of frost and drought in south-eastern Australia. Arct Alp Res 22:412–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wipf S, Rixen C (2010) A review of snow manipulation experiments in Arctic and alpine tundra ecosystems. Polar Res 29:95–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanna E. Venn
    • 1
  • Ken Green
    • 1
  • Catherine M. Pickering
    • 2
  • John W. Morgan
    • 3
  1. 1.New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Snowy Mountains RegionJindabyneAustralia
  2. 2.School of EnvironmentGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Botany, Research Centre for Applied Alpine EcologyLa Trobe UniversityBundooraAustralia

Personalised recommendations