Community attributes determine facilitation potential in a semi-arid steppe

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Title: Community attributes determine facilitation potential in a semi-arid steppe
Authors: Amat Martínez, Beatriz | Cortina, Jordi | Zubcoff, Jose
Research Group/s: Gestión de Ecosistemas y de la Biodiversidad (GEB) | Web and Knowledge (WaKe)
Center, Department or Service: Universidad de Alicante. Departamento de Ecología | Universidad de Alicante. Departamento de Ciencias del Mar y Biología Aplicada
Keywords: Woody vegetation patches | Community assembly | Plant–plant interactions | Species coexistence | Biotic structure | Community facilitation
Knowledge Area: Ecología | Estadística e Investigación Operativa
Issue Date: Feb-2015
Publisher: Elsevier
Citation: Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 2015, 17(1): 24-33. doi:10.1016/j.ppees.2014.10.001
Abstract: Studies on positive plant–plant relations have traditionally focused on pair-wise interactions. Conversely, the interaction with other co-occurring species has scarcely been addressed, despite the fact that the entire community may affect plant performance. We used woody vegetation patches as models to evaluate community facilitation in semi-arid steppes. We characterized biotic and physical attributes of 53 woody patches (patch size, litter accumulation, canopy density, vegetation cover, species number and identity, and phylogenetic distance), and soil fertility (organic C and total N), and evaluated their relative importance for the performance of seedlings of Pistacia lentiscus, a keystone woody species in western Mediterranean steppes. Seedlings were planted underneath the patches, and on their northern and southern edges. Woody patches positively affected seedling survival but not seedling growth. Soil fertility was higher underneath the patches than elsewhere. Physical and biotic attributes of woody patches affected seedling survival, but these effects depended on microsite conditions. The composition of the community of small shrubs and perennial grasses growing underneath the patches controlled seedling performance. An increase in Stipa tenacissima and a decrease in Brachypodium retusum increased the probability of survival. The cover of these species and other small shrubs, litter depth and community phylogenetic distance, were also related to seedling survival. Seedlings planted on the northern edge of the patches were mostly affected by attributes of the biotic community. These traits were of lesser importance in seedlings planted underneath and in the southern edge of patches, suggesting that constraints to seedling establishment differed within the patches. Our study highlights the importance of taking into consideration community attributes over pair-wise interactions when evaluating the outcome of ecological interactions in multi-specific communities, as they have profound implications in the composition, function and management of semi-arid steppes.
Sponsor: This research has been funded by project UNCROACH (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation; CGL2011-30581-C02-01), projects RECUVES and ESTRES (Spanish Ministry of the Environment, Rural and Marine Areas; 077/RN08/04.1and 063/SGTB/2007/7.1), project GRACCIE (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, Consolider-Ingenio 2010 Program;CSD2007-00067) and Generalitat Valenciana (Programa G. Forteza;FPA/2009/029).
ISSN: 1433-8319
DOI: 10.1016/j.ppees.2014.10.001
Language: eng
Type: info:eu-repo/semantics/article
Rights: © 2014 Geobotanisches Institut ETH, Stiftung Ruebel. Published by Elsevier GmbH.
Peer Review: si
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Appears in Collections:INV - GEB - Artículos de Revistas
INV - WaKe - Artículos de Revistas

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