Aim Several recent studies have aimed to identify the biological, ecological and distributional attributes that determine the regional abundance of plant species. Here we aim to assess the relationships between regional abundance and species attributes in weeds on arable land.
Location Czech Republic, central Europe.
Methods The relationships between regional abundance and species attributes were studied with a data set of 381 weed species occurring on arable land in the Czech Republic. Regional species abundances were estimated from their occurrence frequency in vegetation plots distributed across the country. Using regression tree models, abundance was related to the biological traits, ecological indicator values, geographical distribution and habitat range of species. The models were calculated for the entire country and separately for weeds in cereals, root crops, lowlands and uplands. The effects of phylogenetic relatedness among species on their regional abundance were quantified and compared with the effects of species attributes.
Results The results were similar for the whole data set and its particular subsets. Phylogeny explained 11.2–14.9% and species attributes 16.1–56.9% of the variation in regional abundance of weed species. Removal of the phylogenetic signal did not result in important changes in the effects of particular attributes. The most abundant species were those flowering in pre-spring and early spring, adapted to low temperatures, relatively shade tolerant and with high nutrient requirements. The high regional abundance of these species positively correlated with their broad geographical (often circumpolar) distribution and broad habitat ranges.
Main conclusions The regional abundance of weeds can, to some extent, be explained by their attributes. The most important attributes are those that enable weeds to grow and reproduce in the cool season when there is limited competition with crop plants, and those that are adaptations to growth in dense vegetation stands and highly productive habitats.