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Diversity and functional composition of alpine grasslands along an elevational transect in the Gran Paradiso National Park (NW Italy)

Title data

Baumann, Esther ; Weiser, Frank ; Chiarucci, Alessandro ; Jentsch, Anke ; Dengler, Jürgen:
Diversity and functional composition of alpine grasslands along an elevational transect in the Gran Paradiso National Park (NW Italy).
In: Tuexenia. Vol. 36 (2016) . - pp. 337-358.
ISSN 0722-494X

Official URL: Volltext

Abstract in another language

Elevational gradients in high mountain ranges are particularly suitable to study and understand patterns and drivers of plant community diversity and composition, yet there are only very few studies that explicitly addressed this topic for the European Alps. Here we analysed an elevational gradient in grasslands of the Gran Paradiso National Park (NW Italy) from c. 1700 to 3100 m a.s.l. We recorded vascular plant species composition in 13 100-m² plots, each with two series of nested subplots from 0.0001 to 10 m², as well as a set of environmental parameters (topography, soil). Beta-diversity was assessed via the z-values of power-law species-area relationships, both across all plot sizes and from one plot size to the next bigger one. Diversity-environment relationships were assessed with multi-model inference based on Akaike information criterion (AIC), while scale-dependence in z-values across plot sizes was analysed with ANOVA. Life forms and three major functional traits (specific leaf area = SLA; canopy height, seed mass) were derived from trait databases to calculate fractions of life forms and community weighted means for the metric traits. Species richness on 100 m² ranged from 17 to 65, with a mean of 43.5. The z-values were within a typical range known for European grasslands (mean: 0.227) with non-significant scale dependence. The importance of environmental factors for richness changed across grain sizes, with inclination (positive effect), mean soil depth and soil skeleton content (both negative effect) being most influential at grain sizes of 0.0001−1 m². By contrast, soil pH was most important (with a unimodal relationship) for 10 and 100 m². After accounting for the other environmental factors, elevation showed a moderate unimodal only for the two largest grain sizes. By contrast, functional composition showed strong and mostly significant relationships with elevation: hemicryptophytes and geophytes became rarer and chamaephytes more frequent, while community-weighted means of SLA, canopy height and seed mass decreased. Our findings highlight the scale dependences of biodiversity patterns, thus pointing to the need of multi-scale sampling to reach comprehensive understanding. Further, we could provide one of the first documentation of biodiversity and functional composition along an elevational gradient in the Alps, some in agreement with expectations, others not. This suggests that more extensive studies with a similar design in this and other regions of the Alps could be a valuable contribution to the understanding of how environmental factors drive components of biodiversity as well a functional community assembly.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: No
Additional notes: BAYCEER136055
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology > Chair Plant Ecology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Professorship Disturbance Ecology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Professorship Disturbance Ecology > Professorship Disturbance Ecology - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Anke Jentsch
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Research Centres
Research Institutions > Research Centres > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Faculties
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Biology
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2016 11:49
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2018 13:52
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/33344