Colonization dynamics and relative abundance of three plant species (Antennaria dioica, Hieradum pilosella and Hypochoeris maculata) in dry semi-natural grasslands



The objective of this study was to examine how population recruitment depends on seed size, and if relative abundance depends on colonization, in three plant species inhabiting dry semi-natural grasslands All three species, Antennaria dioica, Hieracium pitosella and Hvpochoeris maculata belong to the same family, Asteraceae, and possess similarly structured wind-dispersed fruits, achenes with pappus They occupy the same range of habitats, but are not equally abundant The seed size hierarchy is Hypochoeris Hieracium Antennaria Results from experiments suggest that recruitment is promoted by small disturbances, but limited also by seed availability Seed size differences explain interactions during recruitment, Hypochoeris“wins” over the other two species, and Hteracium wins over Antennaria Seed arrival order did not alter this hierarchy A model of relative abundance of the species was developed, based on observed differences in recruitment and seed output from local populations The model was able to predict observed relative abundance patterns at a large spatial scale, especially at marginal sites along road verges (Hieracium Hypochoeris Aniermaria), but not at smaller scales, where Antennaria was more frequent than Hypochoeris The results support a metapopulation approach to abundance patterns in landscapes, and, more specifically, they support the hypothesis that species abundance reflects colonizing ability An additional implication is that single source populations may be of great importance for species persistence in landscapes, a conclusion which has bearing on development of conservation and management plans for endangered habitats