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Data from: Seasonality promotes grassland diversity: interactions with mowing, fertilization and removal of dominant species

Cite this dataset

Dolezal, Jiri; Lanta, Vojtech; Mudrak, Ondrej; Leps, Jan (2019). Data from: Seasonality promotes grassland diversity: interactions with mowing, fertilization and removal of dominant species [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Current biodiversity declines in species-rich grasslands are connected with the cessation of management, eutrophication and the expansion of dominant grass species. One of the theoretical mechanisms limiting biodiversity loss is the ability of subordinate species to avoid competitive exclusion by seasonal niche separation from dominant species. Here we explore how seasonality underpins the maintenance of diversity in temperate meadows under different management regimes and competition intensities in relation to species functional traits. 2. We studied eight different communities in a long-term meadow experiment that manipulated mowing, fertilization and dominant species (Molinia caerulea) removal. In each community, species-specific trait and biomass data were taken five times during the year to test whether seasonal variation in species composition and functional strategies enable species to coexist. 3. Mown unfertlized meadows exhibited pronounced seasonal variations in community composition and structure, linked to differences in resource-use strategies between mid-summer dominants and the spring and autumn subordinates. Higher specific leaf area and foliar nitrogen concentration in the fast-growing dominants, and increased water use (δ13C) and nutrient acquisition (δ15N) efficiency in resource-retentive subordinates, best predicted their temporal niche separation. Seasonal segregation of species with contrasting strategies increased after mowing cessation, and the resulting summer dominance of Molinia. Conversely, the seasonal dynamics were markedly reduced by fertilization, promoting tall grasses over sedges and forbs throughout the entire year, thereby decreasing the overall taxonomic and functional diversity. When Molinia was removed the compositional changes during the season became less pronounced, being significant only in mown unfertilized plots. 4. Seasonal shifts in community composition reduced the competitive interactions and promoted the coexistence of dominant and subordinate species. Seasonality reversed the negative mid-summer diversity-productivity relationship to a positive one during the spring and autumn, and seasonality only prevented diversity loss in unfertilized conditions possibly because competition is most intense in summer. In fertilized meadows, subordinate species are not able to escape competitive exclusion by shifting their phenological peaks to the spring or autumn periods because asymmetric competition is intense over the entire growing season. Studying seasonal dynamics is key to understanding the maintenance of grassland diversity under ongoing land use change.

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National Science Foundation, Award: Czech Science Foundation (GACR 17-05506S and 17-19376S)


Central Europe