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A test of priority effect persistence in semi-natural grasslands through the removal of plant functional groups during community assembly

Published on Dec 1, 2016in BMC Ecology2.381
· DOI :10.1186/s12898-016-0077-9
Kenny Helsen10
Estimated H-index: 10
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven),
Martin Hermy68
Estimated H-index: 68
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven),
Olivier Honnay51
Estimated H-index: 51
(Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)
Abstract
Background It is known that during plant community assembly, the early colonizing species can affect the establishment, growth or reproductive success of later arriving species, often resulting in unpredictable assembly outcomes. These so called ‘priority effects’ have recently been hypothesized to work through niche-based processes, with early colonizing species either inhibiting the colonization of other species of the same niche through niche preemption, or affecting the colonization success of species of different niches through niche modification. With most work on priority effects performed in controlled, short-term mesocosm experiments, we have little insight in how niche preemption and niche modification processes interact to shape the community composition of natural vegetations. In this study, we used a functional trait approach to identify potential niche-based priority effects in restored semi-natural grasslands. More specifically, we imposed two treatments that strongly altered the community’s functional trait composition; removal of all graminoid species and removal of all legume species, and we compared progressing assembly with unaltered control plots.
  • References (47)
  • Citations (12)
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References47
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Exotic species are sometimes phenologically distinct from native species in the invaded community, allowing them to be active when there may be reduced competition for resources. In southern California, annual species are particularly problematic invaders, and prior work has shown that these species germinate earlier in the growing season, giving them a competitive advantage over later-germinating native species. This result begs the question, if being active earlier is advantageous, why have no...
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Plant–soil feedbacks can influence plant growth and community structure by modifying soil biota and nutrients. Because most research has been performed at the species level and in monoculture, our ability to predict responses across species and in mixed communities is limited. As plant traits have been linked to both soil properties and plant growth, they may provide a useful approach for an understanding of feedbacks at a generic level. We measured how monocultures and mixtures of grassland pla...
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Background The prevalence of different biotic processes (limiting similarity, weaker competitor exclusion) and historical contingency due to priority effects are in the focus of ongoing discussions about community assembly and non-random functional trait distributions. Methodology/Principal Findings We experimentally manipulated assembly history in a grassland biodiversity experiment (Jena Experiment) by applying two factorially crossed split-plot treatments to all communities: (i) duration of w...
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Summary 1. Ecological restoration schemes often assume that after reinstating appropriate abiotic conditions, plant communities will assemble following a single predictable pathway towards a fixed target state. This idea has recently been challenged, with increasing evidence that plant community assembly can only be considered deterministic at the plant trait level, rather than at the species level, and that the assembly outcome is largely influenced by the spatial context of the restoration sit...
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