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Data from: Drought effects on the stability of forest-grassland ecotones under gradual climate change

Cite this dataset

Barros, Ceres; Thuiller, Wilfried; Münkemüller, Tamara (2018). Data from: Drought effects on the stability of forest-grassland ecotones under gradual climate change [Dataset]. Dryad.


Plant communities in forest-grassland ecotones of the European Alps are already suffering from gradual climate change and will likely be exposed to more frequent and intense drought periods in the future. Yet, how gradual climate change and extreme drought will affect the stability of these plant communities is largely unknown. Here, we investigated how drought modulates the effects of gradual climate change on the long-term structural stability of these ecotone communities using a multidimensional approach. Using a spatially explicit landscape vegetation model, we simulated three drought scenarios, on top of gradual changes of climate variables, and their impacts on the dynamics of 24 plant functional groups, distinguishing between forests and grasslands, as well as different land uses. We then used n-dimensional hypervolumes to define community states under the different drought scenarios, and compared them to initial conditions to assess changes in community structural stability. In general, added drought effects did not counteract the long-term consequences of gradual climate changes, although they resulted in quantitatively different effects. Importantly, drought and climate change had non-negligible consequences for taxonomic and functional structure that differed between communities and land-use regimes. For instance, forest taxonomic structure was more overall more stable than grassland’s, despite the observed functional shifts towards more warm-adapted species compositions. Conversely, unmanaged grasslands were the least stable, suffering the loss of characteristic alpine species. Also, while frequent and severe drought regimes caused forests to become more variable in time, they had the opposite effect on grasslands. Our results agree with observations of drought- and climate-driven changes in mountain communities of the Alps, and we discuss their relevance for ecosystem management. Importantly, we demonstrate the utility of this multidimensional approach to study community stability for analysing cross-community and cross-disturbance responses to global change.

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Ecrins National Park