Functional Traits in a Species-Rich Grassland and a Short-Term Change in Management: Is There a Competition-Colonization Trade-Off?
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The species richness of grasslands generally cannot be fully restored after changes in management. Some species with small statures and basal leaf rosettes can be lost forever. The same species, however, seem to possess the traits necessary for successful re-colonization – they produce small, easily dispersable seeds, numerous seedlings and have lasting seed banks. We tested the hypothesis that plants in species-rich grasslands can be characterized by a negative correlation between their competitive ability and potential for generative regeneration, i.e. by a competition-colonization trade-off. An analysis of the traits of 95 grassland species supported this hypothesis. We then conducted a manipulative experiment in three different meadow communities in the Bílé Karpaty Mts. The experiment involved characterizing species traits during periods of different grassland management regimes in the years 1997–2000 and comparing these with the original management regime, which was restored between 2000 and 2003. We found out that the hypothesis only holds true for the pooled dataset for all three communities. When the individual meadow communities were analyzed separately, plant traits other than those responsible for the competition-colonization trade-off appear to be characteristic of responsive species, e.g. shoot lifespan or phenology. Our results imply that despite the general trade-offs found in large comparative studies, the plant response in a specific community is constrained by the local species pool.
KeywordsAbandonment Generative regeneration Meadow management Plant persistence Plant traits Restoration of management
We are indebted to Jan W. Jongepier for language corrections, and to Tomáš Herben and two anonymous referees for insightful comments. This project was financially supported by projects GA526/09/0963 and VaV SP/2d3/54/07, and the long-term research development project No. RVO 67985939. This work would not have been possible without cooperation and logistic support from the Bílé Karpaty Protected Landscape Area Authority, namely Ivana Jongepierová. The following botanists assisted us in the field: K. Vincenecová, J. Němec, P. Hájková, Z. Preislerová, R.J. Vašut, M. Havlová, A. Pečinka, N. Wernerová, Z. Dočkalová, K. Fajmon, M. Ott, M. Perný, I. Škodová, M. Derková, M. Theuerkauf, K. Devánová, M. Bruchter, Š. Králová, D. Simonová, A. Šmídová, K. Merunková and P. Konvalinková.
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