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Functional trait variation of Anemone nemorosa along macro‐ and microclimatic gradients close to the northern range edge

Citation

Depauw, Leen et al. (2022), Functional trait variation of Anemone nemorosa along macro‐ and microclimatic gradients close to the northern range edge, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.zpc866t9r

Abstract

Climate warming is affecting ecosystems worldwide, and slow-colonizing forest under- storey species are particularly vulnerable if they are unable to track climate change. However, species’ responses to climatic conditions in terms of growth, reproduction and colonization capacity may vary with the distance to their distribution range edge. Anemone nemorosa is known to be a slow colonizing forest herb dependent on forest cover in the southern and central part of its distribution range, whereas at its northern distribution range (and at higher elevations) it also occurs in open habitats. Here, we investigated the response of plant functional traits of Anemone nemorosa in cen- tral Norway (close to its northern distribution range edge) to a macroclimatic gra- dient (elevation), two microclimatic gradients (forest density and distance to forest edge) and a competition treatment (removal of neighbouring vegetation). We aimed to identify which environmental conditions (light, temperature, soil pH and/or soil organic matter) drive A. nemorosa’s responses. In a total of 90 plots, we measured six functional traits of A. nemorosa (plant height, biomass, specific leaf area, seed number, seed mass,and germination percentage). We found stronger variation in environmental conditions along the macroclimatic elevational gradient, than along the microclimatic gradients of forest density and distance to forest edge, and this was also reflected in A. nemorosa’s responses. Light availability, in interaction with temperature, was the key environmental variable driving plant performance, while soil conditions were less important. The competition release treatment had a negative effect on A. nemorosa in our study sites, indicating that the facilitative effect of the neighbouring vegetation may be stronger than the competitive effect. Our study suggests that A. nemorosa, close to its northern distribution range edge, has the capacity to cope with climate change through phenotypic responses, and that light and temperature are the key drivers of these responses.

Funding

HORIZON EUROPE European Research Council, Award: 757833