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Does complementarity in leaf phenology and inclination promote co-existence in a species-rich meadow? Evidence from functional groups


(corresponding author,



Could tests of proportionality for functionally defined guilds provide a rapid means of revealing potential mechanisms of co-existence in species-rich meadow communities?

Study site

A species-rich meadow in Slovenia.


Species presence/absence was recorded in 830 contiguous 0.2 m × 0.2 m quadrats arranged in a rectangular transect. Evidence for guild proportionality was assessed for guilds defined by (1) taxonomy, (2) growth form and (3) functional group defined by leaf inclination or leaf phenology. We also tested whether classifying the graminoid-like forb Scorzenera villosa as a graminoid improved evidence for proportionality in taxonomic guilds.


There was no evidence of guild proportionality for guilds defined by either taxonomy or growth form. There was significant proportionality for functional groups defined by leaf phenology and leaf inclination. Classifying S. villosa as a graminoid did not improve evidence for proportionality of taxonomic guilds.


Testing for proportionality in functionally defined guilds provides a rapid means for detecting potential mechanisms of co-existence in species-rich communities. We found evidence that species differing in strategy for spatial light capture (leaf inclination) and temporal resource use (phenology) were more likely to co-exist than expected by chance. These findings may help to guide future experimental work attempting to confirm co-existence mechanisms in meadow communities. This approach may prove useful in other poorly studied, species-rich vegetation types.