Trait-Based Approaches for Understanding Species Niche, Coexistence, and Functional Diversity in Subalpine Moorlands
Moorland is an interesting vegetation because (1) it has high diversity with various coexisting species of different functional groups; (2) the coexistence of species is conserved for long time without large disturbances; (3) it is isolated from other moorlands by forest areas, where dispersal of species is expected to be influenced by spatial distribution and size of moorlands; and (4) the environmental factors vary among moorlands, which enable us to determine how these environmental factors affect species composition. We analyzed species diversity of plant communities in subalpine moorlands as well as underlying mechanisms using trait-based approaches to reveal that landscape-level species diversity is mainly a function of between-moorland level species diversity. Species composition and community-level functional traits were influenced by environmental factors such as temperature and soil water characteristics. We analyzed light acquisition efficiency of species belonging to different functional groups and found a seasonal niche separation for light use between functional groups, facilitating species coexistence. Furthermore, we found that species diversity in moorland plant communities conforms to a spatially nested structure. By assuming that the nested rank of species is the potential order of species loss, our simulation analysis demonstrated that vulnerability is considerably different among moorlands, which implies that functional diversity can be a useful measure for the planning of conservation strategies.
KeywordsFunctional groups Functional traits Leaf traits Moorland Resource acquisition efficiency Species coexistence
We thank Koji Yonekura for advice on species identification, our laboratory colleagues for helping with field work, and land owner (Tashiro Farm) and government for permission of the study. This work was funded by the Global Environmental Research Fund of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (F-052, F-092 and D-0904), the Mitsui & Co., Ltd. Environment Fund, Tohoku University’s Global COE program “Ecosystem Adaptability Science for the Future” (J03), JSPS research fellowship, and KAKENHI.
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