Plant functional types and ecosystem function in Mediterranean shrubland

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Abstract

Abstract. This study attempts to identify Plant Functional Types (PFTs) within the scrub vegetation of the stabilized sand dunes of the Doñana National Park (southwestern Spain) and to explore possible links with ecosystem function. Two 10-km long transects were sampled along a gradient of water table depth from elevated and dry dunes to a border area close to the salt marsh.

A matrix of cover values for 20 woody species × 58 plots and a matrix of 24 morphological and physiological traits × 20 species were analysed by means of DCA and TWINSPAN to identify the main vegetation types and PFTs. In order to know the predominant plant traits, the matrix of 20 species × 58 plots was multiplied by the 24 traits × 20 species matrix. The resulting 24 traits × 58 plots matrix was analysed by means of DCA.

The main vegetation types coincide with the previous descriptions of the Park with Juniperus phoenicea woodland and xerophytic species dominating the top of the dunes and hygrophytic species with isolated Quercus suber trees in the depressions. Previous classifications of Mediterranean woody plants resulted in two main PFTs. The present analysis confirmed these two groups: maquis versus garrigue, but added four new groups. The analysis of the traits × plots matrix revealed that the main trend of variation is related to the water table gradient, while the traits related to the species of mature plant communities had little weight in the analysis because these communities are restricted to isolated patches.

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