Few effects of plant functional group identity on ecosystem properties in an annual desert community

Abstract

Desertification is leading to large-scale changes in vegetation structure resulting from increased grazing pressure and drought which may, in turn, have further effects on ecosystem functioning. We examine how the changing functional group identity of plants may influence a range of biotic and abiotic ecosystem properties. To explore this question, we use a functional group removal experiment in which single functional groups (graminoids, legumes and non-leguminous forbs) were experimentally removed from an annual plant community in the Negev Desert, Israel. We conducted the experiment in both a high- and a low-resource environment to determine if identity effects are context dependent. We found full biomass compensation by remaining functional groups for the removal of any functional group, often with more, rather than larger, individuals comprising the compensatory growth. We also found few effects overall of functional group identity on ecosystem properties, with some dependence on environmental context. We found that the functional group with the largest proportional biomass often, but not always, had the largest effect on ecosystem properties. We contrast these results with those from previous removal experiments, the majority of which have been conducted in perennial ecosystems, and hypothesize that the transient nature of annual communities leads to fewer plant–soil interactions in the long term, and as a result fewer effects on ecosystem properties.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. An Y, Wan S, Zhou X, Subedar AA, Wallace LL, Luo Y (2005) Plant nitrogen concentration, use efficiency and contents in a tallgrass prairie ecosystem under experimental warming. Glob Change Biol 11:1733–1744

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Austin AT, Vivanco L (2006) Plant litter decomposition in a semi-arid ecosystem controlled by photdegredation. Nature 442:555–558

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Boeken B, Shachak M (2006) Linking community and ecosystem processes: the role of minor species. Ecosystems 9:119–127

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bret-Harte MS, Mack MC, Goldsmith GR, Sloan DB, Demarco J, Shaver GR, Ray PM, Biesinger Z, Chapin FS (2008) Plant Functional types do not predict biomass responses to removal and fertilization in Alaskan tussock tundra. J Ecol 96:713–726

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. Dai A (2013) Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models. Nat Climate Change 3:52–58

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. De Long JR, Dorrepall E, Kardol P, Nilsson MC, Teuber LM, Wardle DA (2016) Contrasting responses of soil microbial and nematode communities to warming and plant functional group removal across a post-fire boreal forest successional gradient. Ecosystems 19:339–355

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Diaz S, Symstad AJ, Chapin FS, Wardle DA, Huenneke LF (2003) Functional diversity revealed by removal experiments. Trends Ecol Evol 18:140–146

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Feng S, Fu Q (2013) Expansion of global drylands under a warming climate. Atmos Chem Phys 13:14637–14665

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Gherardi LA, Sala OE (2015) Enhanced and precipitation variability decreases grass- and increases shrub-productivity. Proc Natl Acad Sci 112:12735–12740

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Goldberg DE, Turkington R, Olsvig-Whittaker L, Dyer AR (2001) Density dependence in an annual plant community: variation among life history stages. Ecol Monogr 71:423–446

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Grime JP (1998) Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects. J Ecol 86:902–910

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Gundale MJ, Wardle DA, Nilsson MC (2010) Vascular plant removal effects of biological N fixation vary across a boreal forest island gradient. Ecology 91:1704–1714

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Gundale MJ, Hyodo F, Nilsson MC, Wardle DA (2012) Nitrogen niches revealed through species and functional group removal in a boreal shrub community. Ecology 93:1695–1706

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Hobbie SE, Vitousek PM (2000) Nutrient regulation of decomposition in Hawaiian montane forests: do the same nutrients limit production and decomposition? Ecology 81:1867–1877

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hunt HW, Ingham ER, Coleman DC, Elliott ET, Reid CPP (1988) Nitrogen limitation of production and decomposition in prairies, mountain meadow, and pine forest. Ecology 69:1009–1016

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kemp PR, Reynolds JF, Virginia RA, Whitford WG (2003) Decomposition of leaf and root litter of Chihuahuan desert shrubs: effects of three years of summer drought. J Arid Environ 53:21–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kong D, Wu H, Zeng H, Lu Z, Simmons M, Wang M, Sun Z, Han X (2011) Plant functional group removal alters root biomass and nutrient cycling in a typical steppe in Inner Mongolia, China. Plant Soil 346:133–144

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lavorel S, Garnier E (2002) Predicting changes in community composition and ecosystem functioning from plant traits: revisiting the Holy Grail. Funct Ecol 16:545–556

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Li W, Cheng J, Yu K, Epstein HE, Du G (2015) Short-term responses of an alpine meadow community to removal of a dominant species along a fertilization gradient. J Plant Ecol 8:513–522

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Longo G, Seidler TG, Garibaldi LA, Tognetti PM, Chaneton EJ (2013) Functional group dominance and identity effects influence the magnitude of grassland invasion. J Ecol 101:1114–1124

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. McLaren JR, Turkington R (2010a) Ecosystem properties determined by plant functional group identity. J Ecol 98:459–469

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. McLaren JR, Turkington R (2010b) Plant functional group identity differentially affects leaf and root decomposition. Glob Change Biol 16:3075–3084

    Google Scholar 

  23. McLaren JR, Turkington R (2011) Biomass compensation and plant responses to 7 years of plant functional group removals. J Veg Sci 22:503–515

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Perevolotsky A (1999) Natural conservation, reclamation and livestock grazing in the northern Negev: contradictory or complementary concepts? In: Hoekstra TW, Shachak M (eds) Arid lands management: toward ecological sustainability. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, pp 223–232

    Google Scholar 

  25. Reynolds JF, Smith DMS, Lambin EF, Turner BL, Mortimore M, Batterbury SPJ, Downing TE, Dowlatabadi H, Fernandez RJ, Herrick JE, Huber-Sannwald E, Jiang H, Leemans R, Lynam T, Maestre FT, Ayarza M, Walker B (2007) Global Desertification: building a science for dryland development. Science 316:847–851

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Sala OE, Chapin FS, Armesto JJ, Berlow E, Bloomfield J, Dirzo R, Huber-Sanwald E, Huenneke LF, Jackson RB, Kinzig A, Leemans R, Lodge DM, Mooney HA, Oesterheld M, Poff NL, Sykes MT, Walker BH, Walker M, Wall DH (2000) Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100. Science 287:1770–1774

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Seasted TR (1988) Mass, nitrogen and phosphorus dynamics in foliage and root detritus of tallgrass prairie. Ecology 69:59–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Shaver GR, Laundre JA, Bret-Harte MS, Stuart Chapin IF, Diaz JAM, Giblin AE, Gough L, Gould WA, Hobbie SE, Kling GW, Mack MC, Moore JC, Nadelhoffer KJ, Rastetter EB, Schimel JP (2014) Terrestrial ecosystems at toolik Lake, Alaska. In: Hobbie JE, Kling GW (eds) Alaska’s changing Arctic: ecological consequences for Tundra, Streams, and Lakes. Oxford University Press, pp 90–142

  29. Shilo-Volin HA, Novoplansky A, Goldberg DE, Turkington R (2005) Density regulation in annual plant communities under variable resource levels. Oikos 108:241–252

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Smith MD, Knapp AK (2003) Dominant species maintain ecosystem function with no-random species loss. Ecol Lett 6:509–517

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Steinberger Y, Shmida A, Whitford WG (1990) Decomposition along a rainfall gradient in the Judean Desert, Israel. Oecologia 82:322–324

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Strojan CL, Randall DC, Turner FB (1987) Relationship of leaf litter decomposition rates to rainfall in the Mojave Desert. Ecology 68:741–744

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Suding KN, Miller AE, Bechtold H, Bowman WD (2006) The consequence of species loss on ecosystem nitrogen cycling depends on community compensation. Oecologia 149:141–149

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. Symstad A, Tilman D (2001) Divresity loss, recruitment limitation and ecosystem functioning: lessons learned from a removal experiment. Oikos 92:424–435

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Tjoelker MG, Craine JM, Wedin D, Reich PB, Tilman D (2005) Linking leaf and root trait s syndromes among 39 grassland and savannah species. New Phytol 167:493–508

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. Urcelay C, Diaz S, Gurvich DE, Chapin FS, Cuevas E, Dominguez LS (2009) Mycorrhizal community resilience in response to experimental plant functional type removals in a woody ecosystem. J Ecol 97:1291–1301

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Vitousek PM, D’Antonio CM, Loope LL, Westbrooks R (1996) Biological invasions as global environmental change. Am Sci 84:218–228

    Google Scholar 

  38. Wang J, Ge Y, Zhang CB, Bai Y, Du ZK (2013) Dominant functional group effects on the invasion resistance at different resource levels. PLoS ONE 8:277220

    Google Scholar 

  39. Ward SE, Bardgett RD, McNamara NP, Ostle NJ (2009) Plant Functional group identity influences short-term peatland ecosystem carbon flux: evidence from a plant removal experiment. Funct Ecol 23:454–462

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Wardle DA, Zackrisson O (2005) Effects of species and functional group loss on island ecosystem properties. Nature 435:806–810

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Wardle DA, Bonner KI, Barker GM, Yeates GW, Nicholson KS, Bardgett RD, Watson RN, Ghani A (1999) Plant removals in perennial grassland: vegetation dynamics, decomposers, soil biodiversity, and ecosystem properties. Ecol Monogr 69:535–568

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Wardle DA, Bardgett RD, Callaway RM, Van der Putten WH (2011) Terrestrial ecosystem responses to species gains and losses. Science 332:1273–1277

  43. Wardle DA, Gundale MJ, Jaderlund A, Nilsson MC (2013) Decoupled long-term effects of nutrient enrichment on aboveground and belowground properties in subalpine tundra. Ecology 94:904–919

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Discovery Grant to R.T. and scholarship to J.R.M.), Sigma Xi, and Western Ag Innovations. Many thanks to the staff at the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research for logistical and other support. The authors are grateful to Lusine Ghazaryan, Hadas Hawlena, Valeria Hochman and Tania Acuna for help in the field and A. Darrouzet-Nardi, J.C. Cahill and an anonymous reviewer for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This is publication #915 of the Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jennie R. McLaren.

Additional information

Communicated by Prof. Lauchlan Fraser, Dr. Chris Lortie and Dr. JC Cahill.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 27 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

McLaren, J.R., Novoplansky, A. & Turkington, R. Few effects of plant functional group identity on ecosystem properties in an annual desert community. Plant Ecol 217, 1379–1393 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-016-0660-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Removal experiment
  • Functional group
  • Mass ratio hypothesis
  • Biomass compensation
  • Ecosystem properties