Litter species composition influences the performance of seedlings of grassland herbs


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  • 1This study examines the impacts of plant litter species identity and the composition of litter mixtures on seedling recruitment in the context of land-use change (abandonment) in conservationally important southern Swedish semi-natural grasslands.
  • 2We found that plant litter had marked positive effects on the seedling recruitment of two common grassland species, and that these effects varied strongly with the species identity of the litter.
  • 3There was no consistent evidence that litters of species typical of earlier succession had a greater positive impact on recruitment than those typical of late succession.
  • 4The impact of mixtures of the five litter types examined was generally as expected based on the impacts of single-species litters and their contribution to the litter mixture, as predicted by the biomass ratio hypothesis. However, this was not the case for all litter and seedling species combinations, and some interactions were evident.
  • 5Species identity of litter is important even in multispecies litter mixtures. Changes in plant species dominance (and hence the proportions of litter of different species), as a result of shifts in land use, are likely to result in changes in seedling performance, with potential consequences for the persistence of plant populations in former semi-natural grasslands.