Do climate, resource availability, and grazing pressure filter floristic composition and functioning in Alpine pastures?

Abstract

We studied the floristic composition in the pastures of the Southern Alps (Trento Province, Italy). One hundred and five plots in seven different pasture plant communities were sampled: (1) nitrophilous, (2) montane mesic, (3) subalpine mesic, (4) calcareous montane, (5) calcareous subalpine, (6) acid montane, and (7) acid subalpine pastures. Forward selection and variation partitioning were applied to identify the most important factors controlling the species composition and plant traits in the pastures. Aggregated weighted averages were calculated for each plot using the published values of average height, specific leaf area, and seed mass for each species. Explanatory variables were recorded for each site to reflect climate, soil properties, and grazing pressure. We hypothesised that species composition and functional variation in pastures of the Southern Alps are controlled by three main environmental filters: climate, resource availability, and grazing pressure. We found that variables of climate and soil properties had a major role in explaining the species composition and variations in plant traits, while grazing pressure showed a lower independent effect. Species composition and plant traits depended mainly on temperature, soil fertility, and variables of bedrock type - soil pH. Our results confirm the importance of taking the effects of climate and resource availability into account when describing plant and community functions of grasslands.

Abbreviations

ACID:

volcanic and metamorphic acid bedrock

CAL:

sedimentary calcareous bedrock

CH:

canopy height

DIST:

distance to the farm centre

D_SOIL:

soil depth

GRAZ:

grazing intensity

LHS:

leaf-height-seed

MIX:

mixed debris

pH:

soil pH

PREC:

total summer precipitation

P_SOIL:

Olsen P in soil

RDA:

canonical redundancy analysis

SLA:

specific leaf area

SLOPE:

slope angle

SM:

seed mass

TEM:

mean summer temperature

VBAS:

volcanic basic bedrock

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Dainese, M., Scotton, M., Clementel, F. et al. Do climate, resource availability, and grazing pressure filter floristic composition and functioning in Alpine pastures?. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 13, 45–54 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1556/ComEc.13.2012.1.6

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Keywords

  • Bedrock
  • Elevation gradient
  • LHS plant strategy
  • Management
  • Phosphorus
  • Slope
  • Temperature
  • Variation partitioning