Question: How does location and time of insertion affect the course of succession in experimental containers?
Location: Benešov nad Lipou, Českomoravská vrchovina (Czech-Moravian uplands), Czech Republic
Methods: We designed a 5-year container experiment in which plant succession started from scratch. Soil conditions were constant and all containers were filled with homogeneous substrate containing no propagules. We placed the containers in two contrasting habitats (meadow and floodplain) under identical climatic conditions but differing in surrounding vegetations and hence seed input. New containers were installed (and hence succession started) in two subsequent years, twice in each year (spring and autumn). We assume that the individual dates would lead to differences in propagule input and weather conditions.
Results: Although both year and season of succession initiation considerably affected the initial species composition, we observed a pronounced convergence within the set of containers located in each habitat. However, the similarity of containers initiated at the same time but located in different habitats decreased over the course of succession. Final composition of the meadow and floodplain containers was therefore mostly determined by permanent seed input from their nearby neighborhood.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated that propagule availability is an important determinant of the course of succession, and that differential seed input leads to different pathways of succession, even when all other environmental conditions are equal.