Different plant trait scaling in dry versus wet Central European meadows
Trait scaling relationships involve multiple trade-offs and allometric constraints between the traits of co-existing species. Alternative trait relationships, particularly between plant size and other traits, are expected in response to combinations of different biotic and abiotic filters. To what extent does the expected convergence in plant attributes to water shortage and disturbance produce different trait scaling relationships in dry vs wet meadows under various disturbance regimes?
One test meadow in South Bohemia and one in South Moravia (i.e. wet vs dry Central Europe meadows), Czech Republic.
Selected species were sampled in mown and abandoned plots within each site. Several plant traits were measured to provide information on plant strategies related to growth, resource acquisition and carbon–water economy.
Trait differentiation among co-existing species was strong in both meadows, and generally stronger than differentiation caused by mowing and site effects. Different trait scaling relationships with plant height were observed across the meadows, particularly showing a more independent trait differentiation linked to water–carbon economy at the dry site. Mowing tended to reinforce the effect of water limitation on traits and on trait scaling. In contrast, mowing cessation tended to resemble the effect of humid conditions on trait relationships.
The results advocate incorporating trait scaling relationships between species into vegetation models and community assembly assessments, therefore accounting for processes of plant co-existence along combined spectra of light, water and disturbance regimes. These gradients affect alternative life-history strategies and possibly sustain different species co-existence patterns based on different trait scaling. The results particularly advocate a convergence in traits and trait scaling relationships in response to the combination of disturbance and water limitation.