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Interspecific trait variability and local soil conditions modulate grassland model community responses to climate

Citation

Alongi, Franklin et al. (2023), Interspecific trait variability and local soil conditions modulate grassland model community responses to climate, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.9s4mw6mhh

Abstract

            High elevation grasslands provide critical services in agriculture and ecosystem stabilization. However, these ecosystems face elevated risks of disturbance due to predicted soil and climate changes. We experimentally exposed model grassland communities, comprised of three species grown on either local or reference soil, to varied climatic environments along an elevational gradient in the European Alps, measuring the effects on species and community traits. Although species-specific biomass varied across soil and climate, species’ proportional contributions to community-level biomass production remained consistent. Where species experienced low survivorship, species-specific biomass production was maintained through increased production of surviving individuals. Species responded directionally to climatic variation, segregating differentially by plant traits (including height, reproduction, biomass, survival, leaf dry weight, and leaf area) across all sites. Local soil variation drove stochastic trait responses across all species. This soil variability obscured climate-driven responses: we recorded no directional trait responses driven by climate. Our species-based approach contributes to our understanding of grassland community stabilization and suggests that these communities show some stability under climatic variation.