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Plant functional trait responses to interannual rainfall variability, summer drought and seasonal grazing in Mediterranean herbaceous communities

AuthorsPérez Camacho, Lorenzo; Rebollo de la Torre, S.; Hernández Santana, V. ; García Salgado, Gonzalo; Pavón García, Javier; Gómez Sal, A.
Issue Date2012
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationFunctional Ecology 26(3): 740-749 (2012)
Abstract1. Some plant functional traits evolved with high temporal resource variability and disturbance in ecosystems where these factors are prevalent. Persistence of characteristics of these functional traits in ecosystems may depend on continued resource variability and disturbance, which in turn may promote functional diversity. In Mediterranean ecosystems, experiments that eliminate temporal resource variability and disturbance are needed to detect functional trait dependence on these factors. 2. The purpose of this study was to experimentally assess how interannual rainfall variability, summer drought and seasonal grazing modify the characteristics of functional traits (life span, flowering time, seed size and plant size) in old-field (6–15 years) Mediterranean herbaceous communities. 3. We designed a 9-year factorial field experiment that manipulated Mediterranean rainfall variability in three ways: (i) constant water availability with no summer drought; (ii) autumn and spring water availability but with summer drought; and (iii) no water supplied to rainfall; and grazing regimes: (i) autumn grazing; (ii) spring grazing; and (iii) non-grazing, in each of the three scenarios of water availability. At a community scale, we measured abundance of different categories within four plant functional traits: plant life span (annual and perennial), flowering time of annuals (spring and summer) and seed and plant sizes of spring annuals (small and large). 4. Interannual rainfall variability in autumn and spring (IRVAS), summer drought and grazing reduced perennial cover. IRVAS was necessary for the persistence of small-seeded and small-size spring annuals. IRVAS and summer drought increased spring annuals in grazed treatments. 5. Results suggest that IRVAS, summer drought and grazing favour the coexistence of species, through improved functional diversity in seed and plant sizes and increased abundance of spring annuals, the most species-rich functional group. Both effects may be the reason for the high species richness in grazed Mediterranean herbaceous communities.
Identifiersissn: 1365-2435
e-issn: 1365-2435
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