Plant functional types in coastal foredunes in relation to environmental stress and disturbance


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Abstract. The foredune vegetation in the Gulf of Cadiz (SW Spain, S Portugal) was studied by means of morphological characters and functional traits of plants. The 55 vascular species recorded in the area were classified into three functional types: Type I consists mainly of winter annuals of moderate size with soft leaves, showing no presumed adaptations to the dune environment. Plants of Type II are mostly perennials with a below-ground spreading root network and leaves with presumed adaptations to coastal environmental stress. Type III includes plants mostly capable of being dispersed by sea-water and of withstanding sand burial.

In relatively unstable soil, Type II and Type III plants were found to be more abundant, their relative proportion depending on the dominance of accretion/erosion processes. Increasing cover of Type I plants was associated with relatively more stable soils. The ratios in occurrences of the three types can be used as an indicator of foredune dynamics.