Folia Geobotanica

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 185–204 | Cite as

Developmental responses of subdominant grassland species to current weather conditions and their relevance for annual vegetation changes

  • Peter Manuel Kammer


Year-to-year vegetation changes have been observed many times in temperate grasslands. Ordinarily, variation in annual weather patterns is considered responsible for these changes. However, the exact mechanisms of vegetation dynamics have seldom been studied. In order to analyse the direct response of plants to distinct weather situations, the shoot growth rates of three subdominant grassland species were determined during three growing seasons and tested for significant relationships to meteorological variables measured simultaneously in the study site. Half of the shoots grew in the natural community with competition from neighbouring plants. For the other half, above-ground interference was avoided by regularly clipping the surrounding vegetation. The results lead to the distinction of three different impact patterns of current weather conditions on the growth of subdominant grassland species: (i) As a consequence of extraordinary weather conditions, e.g. lasting periods of drought in the summer, plants die completely or partially or pass into secondary dormancy. Such weather situations may cause quantitative or even qualitative changes in species composition by altering the density and frequency of the species involved. (ii) Major divergences from average weather conditions, such as unusually warm or cold periods in the spring, affect the growth of subdominant species and may therefore lead to quantitative annual variation of the species involved in terms of cover or biomass. (iii) Average weather conditions with slight deviations from the long-term means of the weather variables do not produce detectable direct growth responses and therefore average weather conditions are not key factors for year-to-year variations in the quantitative or qualitative performance of subdominant species.


Air humidity Drought Growth rates Page test Temperature Vegetation dynamics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Albertson F.W. &Tomanek G.W. (1965): Vegetation changes during a 30-year period in grassland communities near Hays, Kansas.Ecology 46: 714–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaubien E.G. &Johnson D.L. (1994): Flowering plant phenology and weather in Alberta, Canada.Int. J. Biometeorol. 38: 23–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Collins S.L., Bradford J.A. &Sims P.L. (1987): Succession and fluctuation inArtemisia dominated grassland.Vegetatio 73: 89–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cytel (1995):StatXact for Windows. Statistical software for exact nonparametric inference. Cytel Software Corporation, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  5. Daniel W.W. (1990):Applied nonparametric statistics. Ed. 2. PWS-Kent, Oxford.Google Scholar
  6. Diekmann M. (1996): Relationship between flowering phenology of perennial herbs and meteorological data in deciduous forests of Sweden.Canad. J. Bot. 74: 528–537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dierschke H. (1985): Experimentelle Untersuchung zur Bestandesdynamik von Kalkmagerrasen (Mesobromion) in Südniedersachsen. I. Vegetationsentwicklung auf Dauerflächen 1972–1984. In:Schreiber K.F. (ed.), Sukzession auf Grünlandbrachen,Münstersche Geogr. Arbeiten 20: 9–23.Google Scholar
  8. Dunnett N.P., Willis A.J., Hunt R. &Grime J.P. (1998): A 38-year study of relations between weather and vegetation dynamics in road verges near Bibury, Gloucestershire.J. Ecol. 86: 610–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunnett N.P. &Grime J.P. (1999): Competition as an amplifier of short-term vegetation responses to climate: an experimental test.Funct. Ecol. 13: 388–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunnett N.P. &Willis A.J. (2000): Dynamics ofChamerion angustifolium in grassland vegetation over a thirty-nine-year period.Pl. Ecol. 148: 43–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ellenberg H. (1996):Vegetation Mitteleuropas mit den Alpen. Ed. 5. Ulmer, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  12. Espigares T. &Peco B. (1995): Mediterranean annual pasture dynamics: impact of autumn drought.J. Ecol. 83: 135–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fenner M. (1998): The phenology of growth and reproduction in plants.Perspect. Pl. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 1: 78–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Figueroa M.E. &Davy A.J. (1991): Response of mediterranean grassland species to changing rainfall.J. Ecol. 79: 925–941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fitter A.H., Fitter R.S.R., Harris I.T.B. &Williamson M.H. (1995): Relationships between first flowering date and temperature in the flora of a locality in central England.Funct. Ecol. 9: 55–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Grime J.P. (2001):Plant strategies, vegetation processes, and ecosystem properties. Ed. 2. Wiley, Chichester.Google Scholar
  17. Herben T., Krahulec F., Hadincová V. &Pecháčková S. (1995): Climatic variability and grassland community composition over 10 years: separating effects on module biomass and number of modules.Funct. Ecol. 9: 767–773.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobbs R.J. &Mooney H.A. (1991): Effects of rainfall variability and gopher disturbance on serpentine annual grassland dynamics.Ecology 72: 59–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Houle G. &Phillips D.L. (1989): Seasonal variation and annual fluctuation in granite outcrop plant communities.Vegetatio 80: 25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kammer P.M. (1997): Räumliche, zeitliche und witterungsbedingte Variabilität eines Trespen-Halbtrockenrasens (Mesobromion) im Schweizer Mittelland (Spatial, temporal and weather influenced variability of aBromus erectus-dominated grassland in the Swiss midlands).Diss. Bot. 272: 1–255.Google Scholar
  21. Kammer P.M. (1998): Erfolgskontrolle im Naturschutz: Eine Methode für die repräsentative Überwachung von Pflanzenbeständen mit Dauerflächen.Z. Ökol. Naturschutz 7: 99–109.Google Scholar
  22. Legendre P. &Legendre L. (1998):Numerical ecology. Ed. 2. Developments in environmental modelling 20. Elsevier, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  23. Milchunas D.G., Lauenroth W.K., Chapman P.L. &Kazempour M.K. (1989): Effects of grazing, topography, and precipitation on the structure of a semiarid grassland.Vegetatio 80: 11–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Peco B. (1989): Modelling mediterranean grassland dynamics.Vegetatio 83: 269–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pors B. &Werner P.A. (1989): Individual flowering time in a Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis): field experiment shows genotype more important than environment.Amer. J. Bot. 76: 1681–1688.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Rosén E. (1995): Periodic droughts and long-term dynamics of alvar grassland vegetation on Öland, Sweden.Folia Geobot. Phytotax. 30: 131–140.Google Scholar
  27. Sala O.E., Parton W.J., Joyce L.A. &Lauenroth W.K. (1988): Primary production of the Central Grassland region of the United States.Ecology 69: 40–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schmitt J. &Wulff R.D. (1993): Light spectral quality, phytochrome and plant competition.Trends Ecol. Evol. 8: 47–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Silvertown J., Dodd M.E., McConway K., Potts J. &Crawley M. (1994): Rainfall, biomass variation, and community composition in the Park Grass Experiment.Ecology 75: 2430–2437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Smith H. (1995): Physiological and ecological function within the phytochrome family.Annual Rev. Pl. Physiol. 46: 289–315.Google Scholar
  31. Spano D., Cesaraccio C., Duce P. &Snyder R.L. (1999): Phenological stages of natural species and their use as climate indicators.Int. J. Biometeorol. 42: 124–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sparks T.H. &Carey P.D. (1995): The responses of species to climate over two centuries: an analysis of the Marsham phenological record 1736–1947.J. Ecol. 83: 321–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stampfli A. (1995): Species composition and standing crop variation in an unfertilized meadow and its relationship to climatic variability during six years.Folia Geobot. Phytotax. 30: 117–130.Google Scholar
  34. Stoutjesdijk P. &Barkman J.J. (1992):Microclimate, vegetation and fauna. Opulus, Knivsta.Google Scholar
  35. Tilman D. &El Haddi A. (1992): Drought and biodiversity in grasslands.Oecologia 89: 257–264.Google Scholar
  36. van der Maarel E. (1996): Pattern and process in the plant community: fifty years after A.S. Watt.J. Veg. Sci. 7: 19–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Watt A.S. (1971): Factors controlling the floristic composition of some plant communities in Breckland. In:Duffey E. &Watt A.S. (eds),The scientific management of animal and plant communities for conservation, Symposium of the British Ecological Society 11, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 137–152.Google Scholar
  38. White L.M. (1995): Predicting flowering of 130 plants at 8 locations with temperature and day-length.J. Range Managem. 48: 108–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Manuel Kammer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Plant SciencesUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations