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Data from: Resident species with larger size metrics do not recruit more offspring from the seed bank in old-field meadow vegetation

Citation

Tracey, Amanda; Aarssen, Lonnie (2018), Data from: Resident species with larger size metrics do not recruit more offspring from the seed bank in old-field meadow vegetation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0p82s0r

Abstract

1. According to the traditional ‘Size Advantage’ (SA) hypothesis, plant species with larger body size are expected to be more successful when competition is intense, i.e. within severely crowded vegetation. Recent studies in old-field habitats, however, have shown that those species with greater numerical abundance as resident plants generally have a relatively small minimum reproductive threshold size (MIN), not a relatively large maximum potential body size (MAX). 2. In this study, we test for a size advantage in terms of species abundance representation in the soil seed bank, and we extend the SA hypothesis to include two additional size metrics: leaf size and seed size. Specifically, we ask, for resident species within a crowded old-field meadow: is larger seed size, leaf size, and/or body size associated with greater reproductive / recruitment success (i.e. number of germinable seeds within — and establishing plants emerging from — the soil seed bank)? We collected soil cores for a greenhouse experiment to record relative species abundances of germinable seeds in the seed bank, and we used a field experiment to record local abundances of species emerging from the resident seed bank within denuded plant neighbourhoods over three subsequent field seasons. 3. We found no general support for the SA hypothesis involving any of the size metrics, and none of the latter was a strong predictor of the number of germinable seeds emerging from soil cores in the greenhouse experiment. However, for species establishing in the field experiment from the seed bank over the three-year survey period, more abundant species in years 2 and 3 tended to be those with smaller MIN, and thus smaller MAX. In addition, within more crowded neighbourhoods, representation of reproductive plants was generally greater for species with relatively small MIN (and hence small MAX). 4. Synthesis. Our results extend support for the ‘Reproductive Economy Advantage’ hypothesis in old field habitats, to include not just established, largely undisturbed vegetation, but also very early stages of recruitment from seed within locally crowded plant neighbourhoods. Specifically, more successful species here are not those with relatively large potential body size (MAX); they are species capable of producing at least some offspring despite severe body size suppression, because they have a relatively small MIN.

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