Plant Ecology

, Volume 215, Issue 6, pp 597–612 | Cite as

Plant species’ coexistence relationships may shift according to life history traits and seasons

  • Takeshi Osawa
  • Hiromune Mitsuhashi
  • Atushi Ushimaru


Although several studies have demonstrated that disturbance contributes to species’ diversity, little emphasis has been placed on the identification of species’ coexistence mechanisms related to life history traits. In this study, we compared species’ richness and components of plant communities around river confluences to explore how disturbance promotes the coexistence of species with different life history traits. Sites upstream and downstream of confluences are ideal for such comparisons because they draw on the same species’ pools and have similar ambient conditions, but differ markedly in the extents of flooding disturbance. We compared sites upstream and downstream of confluences by calculating species’ richness and community similarity indices for several life history traits in both summer and spring. In summer, the combined richness of all the species, of annual- and summer-flowering species, was higher downstream from confluences than upstream, but this was not the case for perennials. Similarity analyses suggested that plant communities are constructed according to a neutral process, whereby interactions between the coexisting species are neutral. However, in spring, species’ richness was similar upstream and downstream of confluences for all life history traits. Similarity analyses suggested that under these circumstances, the communities were constructed through a species-sorting process; i.e., each life history trait had a distinct habitat preference. Thus, the relative strengths of different community assembly processes may change seasonally. We concluded that species groups differing in their responses to disturbance may coexist in a single community. Thus, community structuring following disturbance may involve two processes: a neutral and a species-sorting process. The relative importance of each may vary between species’ life history traits and between seasons, and the interaction may account for current community structures.


Bray–Curtis index Neutral process Plant growing season River confluence Species-sorting process 



The authors thank the members of the Ecology Division in The Museum of Nature and Human Activities Hyogo and the Biodiversity Laboratory at Kobe University for their valuable supports. The authors also thank Drs. T. Miyashita and A. Koyama for commenting on an earlier version of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takeshi Osawa
    • 1
  • Hiromune Mitsuhashi
    • 2
  • Atushi Ushimaru
    • 3
  1. 1.National Institute for Agro-environmental SciencesTsukubaJapan
  2. 2.The Museum of Nature and Human Activities HyogoSandaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of Human Development and EnvironmentKobe UniversityKobeJapan

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