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Understanding plant community responses to combinations of biotic and abiotic factors in different phases of the plant growth cycle

Wood, Kevin A.; Stillman, Richard A.; Clarke, Ralph T.; Daunt, Francis; O’Hare, Matthew T.. 2012 Understanding plant community responses to combinations of biotic and abiotic factors in different phases of the plant growth cycle. PLoS ONE, 7 (11), e49824. 8, pp. 10.1371/journal.pone.0049824

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Abstract/Summary

Understanding plant community responses to combinations of biotic and abiotic factors is critical for predicting ecosystem response to environmental change. However, studies of plant community regulation have seldom considered how responses to such factors vary with the different phases of the plant growth cycle. To address this deficit we studied an aquatic plant community in an ecosystem subject to gradients in mute swan (Cygnus olor) herbivory, riparian shading, water temperature and distance downstream of the river source. We quantified abundance, species richness, evenness, flowering and dominance in relation to biotic and abiotic factors during the growth-, peak-, and recession-phases of the plant growth cycle. We show that the relative importance of biotic and abiotic factors varied between plant community properties and between different phases of the plant growth cycle. Herbivory became more important during the later phases of peak abundance and recession due to an influx of swans from adjacent pasture fields. Shading by riparian vegetation also had a greater depressing effect on biomass in later seasons, probably due to increased leaf abundance reducing light intensity reaching the aquatic plants. The effect of temperature on community diversity varied between upstream and downstream sites by altering the relative competitiveness of species at these sites. These results highlight the importance of seasonal patterns in the regulation of plant community structure and function by multiple factors.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1371/journal.pone.0049824
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity > BD Topic 2 - Ecological Processes in the Environment
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 2 - Ecohydrological Processes
CEH Sections: Watt
ISSN: 1932-6203
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Hydrology
Zoology
Botany
Date made live: 16 Jan 2013 14:51 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/21135

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