Functional diversity response to geographic and experimental precipitation gradients varies with plant community type

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Sally E. Koerner, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: 1.Precipitation is a primary determinant of plant community structure in drylands. However, the empirical evidence and predictions are lacking for how plant functional diversity in desert and steppe communities respond to altered precipitation regimes.2.We examined how precipitation changes along the natural and experimental gradients affect different components of functional diversity in desert-shrub and steppe- grass communities. We compared the associations of precipitation changes with community-weighted means (CWMs) of six traits, functional divergence (FDvar) of each single-trait and multi-trait functional richness (FRic) and dispersion (FDis) for shrub and grass communities along the natural and experimental gradients. We also disentangle the roles of species turnover and intraspecific variations in affecting the responses of different functional diversity to precipitation changes.3.We found that in general, the similar responses of functional traits or diversity to both the natural and experimental precipitation gradients were dependent on plant community type. Across both two gradients, precipitation was positively associated with CWM of plant height and negatively associated with the CWM of SLA and leaf thickness in grass community, while positively associated with FDvar of four traits and FDis in shrub communities. Both species turnover and intraspecific variations contributed to the responses of grass community traits to precipitation changes across both two gradients, and to FDvar of traits and FDis in shrub community along the natural gradient. In contrast, species turnover vari-ations contributed to FDvar of traits and FDis in shrub community in experiment.4.These results suggest that there is better concordance between the effects of naturally and experimentally increased precipitation on functional diversity of plant communities, but different mechanisms behind the relationship of functional diversity–precipitation between shrub and grass communities. Grass communities can adapt to precipitation changes by average trait differences, while shrub communities persist through FDvar of single-trait and multi-trait dispersion, thus highlighting the important differences in adaptive strategies between shrub and grass communities. Our findings demonstrate that short-term responses of plant communities to manipulative precipitation changes can reflect long-term shifts at spatial scales depending on the specific functional trait and diversity.

Additional Information

Functional Ecology, 35(9), 2119– 2132.
Language: English
Date: 2021
adaptive strategy, community traits, extreme climate, functional divergence, functional diversity, precipitation changes

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