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Community leaf dry matter content predicts grassland production


Polley, Herbert; Collins, Harold; Fay, Philip (2022), Community leaf dry matter content predicts grassland production, Dryad, Dataset,


Plant growth correlates with values of collinear (covarying) traits from the leaf economics spectrum.  Environmental variation and differences in community composition may alter contributions of these traits to plant production and thereby limit the consistency of trait-based growth predictions among years and plant communities.  We tested effects of interannual variation in precipitation and differences in grassland community composition (planted monoculture of switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, and mixture of perennial herbaceous species) on the utility of two traits from the leaf economics spectrum (leaf dry matter content [LDMC] and plant [N]) to predict aboveground net primary production (ANP) during spring of 6 years.  Spatial and temporal variation in spring production correlated with community-scale (species-abundance weighted) values of both traits, but community LDMC explained 66% of the variance in production and accounted for ≥89% of the variance in ANP explained by the two traits combined.  The ANP response to trait variation and the variance in ANP explained by trait values differed with precipitation and between communities.  Greater precipitation increased the production response to trait variation by increasing slopes of ANP-trait regression relationships and increased the variance in ANP explained by trait values.  Communities differed in response to precipitation variation and in the role of annual variation in the [N]-LDMC relationship in explaining variance in ANP.  Results indicate that mean trends in grassland production can be predicted using community-scale values of LDMC.  Trait-based predictions of grassland production could be improved, however, by accommodating precipitation and community effects on production-trait relationships.


Data were derived using remote measurements of surface reflectance of sunlight from grassland.  The parameters analyzed (ANP, LDMC, [N]) were calculated using calibrated relationships between reflectance and parameter values.  SAS 9.4 was used to analyze regression relationships among calculated parameters.  ANP was analyzed as a function of community leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and independent effects of community [N], the latter defined as the variation in community [N] not accounted for by LDMC.

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