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Contrasting effects of two phenotypes of an alpine cushion plant on understory species drive community assembly

Cite this dataset

Ziyang, Liu (2022). Contrasting effects of two phenotypes of an alpine cushion plant on understory species drive community assembly [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k0p2ngf8q

Abstract

In alpine systems, cushion plants act as foundation species by ameliorating local environmental conditions. Empirical studies indicate that contrasting phenotypes of alpine cushion species have different effects on understory plant species, either facilitative or competitive. Furthermore, dependent species within each community type might also exhibit different responses to each cushion phenotype, which can be clustered into several “response groups”. Additionally, these species-groups specific responses to alpine cushion species phenotypes could alter community assembly. However, very few studies have assessed responses of dependent communities at species-group levels, in particular for both above- and below-ground communities. Here, we selected a loose and a tight phenotype of the alpine cushion species Thylacospermum caespitosum in two sites in northwest China, and use the relative intensity of interactions index to quantify cushion plant effects on subordinate communities of plants and soil fungi and bacteria. We assessed variations in responses of both above- and below-ground organisms to cushion plant effects at species-group level. Species-group level analyses showed that the effects of the phenotype varied among groups of each of the three community types, and different species-groups were composed of unique taxa. Additionally, we found that loose cushions enhanced stochastic processes in community assembly, for plants and soil fungi but not for soil bacteria. These variations of phenotypic effects on different species-group induced contrasting taxonomic composition between groups and altered community assembly thereby. Our study highlights the occurrence of contrasting effects of two phenotypes of a foundation cushion plant on understory plants, soil fungi and bacteria community composition, but not necessarily on their richness. We also showed that assessing responses of understory species at the species-group level allows a more realistic and mechanistic understanding of biotic interactions both for above- and below-ground communities.

Usage notes

Please see the README document ("README.txt") and the accompanying published article: Ziyang Liu, Richard Michalet, et al. Contrasting effects of two phenotypes of an alpine cushion plant on understory species drive community assembly, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 859, Part 2, 2023, 160154, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160154.

Funding

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 41830321

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31870412

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32071532