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Sensitivity of plant functional types to climate change: classification tree analysis of a simulation model

Authors

  • Alexandra Esther,

    1. Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 2, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
    2. Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Vertebrate Research, Toppheideweg 88, 48161 Münster, Germany
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  • Jürgen Groeneveld,

    1. Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Ecological Modelling, P.O. Box 50 01 36, 04301 Leipzig, Germany
    2. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
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  • Neal J. Enright,

    1. School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch 6150, Australia
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  • Ben P. Miller,

    1. Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, West Perth 6005, Australia
    2. School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley 6009, Australia
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  • Byron B. Lamont,

    1. Centre for Ecosystem Diversity and Dynamics, Department of Environmental and Aquatic Sciences, Curtin University, P.O. Box U1987, Perth 6845, Australia
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  • George L.W. Perry,

    1. School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
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  • F. Benjamin Blank,

    1. Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management (ILR), University Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26, 35392 Giessen, Germany
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  • Florian Jeltsch

    1. Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 2, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
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  • Co-ordinating Editor: Dr. Beverly Collins.

Esther, A. (corresponding author, esther@uni-potsdam.de) & Jeltsch, F. (jeltsch@uni-potsdam.de): Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, University of Potsdam, Maulbeerallee 2, 14469 Potsdam, Germany
Esther, A.: (esther@uni-potsdam.de): Julius Kuehn-Institute (JKI), Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Vertebrate Research, Toppheideweg 88, 48161 Münster, Germany
Groeneveld, J. (juergen.groenveld@ufz.de): UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Ecological Modelling, P.O. Box 50 01 36, 04301 Leipzig, Germany
Groeneveld, J. (j.groeneveld@auckland.ac.nz) & Perry, G.L.W. (george.perry@auckland.ac.nz): School of Environment, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand
Enright, N.J. (N.Enright@murdoch.edu.au): School of Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Murdoch 6150, Australia
Miller, B.P. (Ben.Miller@bgpa.wa.gov.au): Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, West Perth 6005, Australia
Miller, B.P. (Ben.Miller@bgpa.wa.gov.au): School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, Crawley 6009, Australia
Lamont, B.B. (B.Lamont@curtin.edu.au): Centre for Ecosystem Diversity and Dynamics, Department of Environmental and Aquatic Sciences, Curtin University, P.O. Box U1987, Perth 6845, Australia
Blank, F.B. (benjamin.blank@umwelt.uni-giessen.de): Institute for Landscape Ecology and Resources Management (ILR), University Giessen, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26, 35392 Giessen, Germany

Abstract

Question: The majority of studies investigating the impact of climate change on local plant communities ignores changes in regional processes, such as immigration from the regional seed pool. Here we explore: (i) the potential impact of climate change on composition of the regional seed pool, (ii) the influence of changes in climate and in the regional seed pool on local community structure, and (iii) the combinations of life history traits, i.e. plant functional types (PFTs), that are most affected by environmental changes.

Location: Fire-prone, Mediterranean-type shrublands in southwestern Australia.

Methods: Spatially explicit simulation experiments were conducted at the population level under different rainfall and fire regime scenarios to determine the effect of environmental change on the regional seed pool for 38 PFTs. The effects of environmental and seed immigration changes on local community dynamics were then derived from community-level experiments. Classification tree analyses were used to investigate PFT-specific vulnerabilities to climate change.

Results: The classification tree analyses revealed that responses of PFTs to climate change are determined by specific trait characteristics. PFT-specific seed production and community patterns responded in a complex manner to climate change. For example, an increase in annual rainfall caused an increase in numbers of dispersed seeds for some PFTs, but decreased PFT diversity in the community. Conversely, a simulated decrease in rainfall reduced the number of dispersed seeds and diversity of PFTs.

Conclusions: PFT interactions and regional processes must be considered when assessing how local community structure will be affected by environmental change.

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