Plant species richness–productivity relationships in a low-productive boreal region
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- Axmanová, I., Chytrý, M., Danihelka, J. et al. Plant Ecol (2013) 214: 207. doi:10.1007/s11258-012-0160-z
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Local species richness–productivity (SR–P) relationship is usually reported as unimodal if long productivity gradients are sampled. However, it tends to be monotonically increasing in low-productive environments due to the decreasing part of the SR–P curve being truncated. Previous work indicated that this can hold true for forest herb layers, because of an upper bound on productivity caused mainly by canopy shading. Here, we ask whether the same pattern exists in a region with an upper bound on productivity caused by a harsh climate. We sampled herbaceous vegetation of boreal forests and grasslands in a low-productive region of central Yakutia (NE Siberia) with dry and winter-cool continental climate. We collected data on species composition, herb-layer productivity (aboveground herbaceous biomass), soil chemistry and light availability. We applied regression models to discriminate between monotonically increasing, decreasing and unimodal responses of herb-layer species richness to measured variables and analysed trends in the species-pool size and beta diversity along the productivity gradient. Our expectation of the monotonically increasing SR–P relationship was confirmed for neither forest herb layers nor grasslands. In the forest herb layers, no relationship was detected. In grasslands, the relationship was unimodal with species richness decline starting at much lower productivity levels than in more productive temperate grasslands. Potential causes for this decline are either limitation of local species richness by the species pool, which contains few species adapted to more productive habitats, or competitive exclusion, which can become an important control of species richness under lower levels of productivity than is the case in temperate grasslands.