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Data from: Quantifying the importance of functional traits for primary production in aquatic plant communities

Cite this dataset

Gustafsson, Camilla; Norkko, Alf (2019). Data from: Quantifying the importance of functional traits for primary production in aquatic plant communities [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Aquatic plant meadows are important coastal habitats that sustain many ecosystem functions such as primary production and carbon sequestration. Currently, there is a knowledge gap in understanding which plant functional traits e.g. leaf size or plant height underlie primary production in aquatic plant communities. 2. To study how plant traits are related to primary production, we conducted a field survey in the Baltic Sea, Finland, which is characterized by high plant species and functional diversity. 30 sites along an exposure gradient were sampled (150 plots) and nine plant morphological and chemical traits measured. The aim was to discern how community-weighted mean traits affect community production and whether this relationship changes along an environmental gradient using structural equation modelling (SEM). 3. Plant height had a direct positive effect on production along the exposure gradient (r = 0.33) and indirect effects through two leaf chemical traits, Leaf δ15N and Leaf δ13C (r = 0.24 and 0.18 respectively) resulting in a total effect of 0.28. In plant communities experiencing varying exposure, traits such as root N concentration and leaf δ15N had positive and negative effects on production, respectively. 4. Synthesis: Our results demonstrate that the relationship between plant functional traits and community production is variable and changes over environmental gradients. Plant height generally has a positive effect on community production along an exposure gradient, while the link between other traits and production changes in plant communities experiencing varying degrees of exposure. Thus, the underlying biological mechanisms influencing production differ in plant communities, emphasizing the need to resolve variability and its drivers in real-world communities. Importantly, functionally diverse plant communities sustain ecosystem functioning differently and highlight the importance of benthic diversity for coastal ecosystem stability.

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Baltic Sea