Posts Tagged ‘traits’

Fire, drought, resprouting: leaf and root traits

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

Drought and fire are prevalent disturbances in Mediterranean ecosystems. Plant species able to regrow after severe disturbances (i.e. resprouter life history) have higher allocation to roots and higher water potential during the dry season than coexisting non-resprouting species. However, non-resprouters have higher survival rate after summer drought. We expect that, to counteract their shallow-rooting systems and to maximize seedling survival, non-resprouters have traits that confer higher water-use efficiency and higher efficiency in soil resource acquisition than resprouters.

Some time ago we tested this prediction in relation to leaf traits [1] and found that non-resprouters have higher leaf mass per area (LMA; i.e. lower specific leaf area, SLA), leaf dry matter content (LDMC), area-based leaf nitrogen content (LNCa) and integrated water-use efficiency (δ13C) than resprouters, suggesting that they have higher potential for structural resistance to drought and higher water-use efficiency than resprouters.

In a recent paper we have now tested the prediction for root traits in seedlings [2]. We found that non-resprouters have higher specific root length (SRL) and longer, thinner and more branched lateral roots, especially in the upper soil layers. The external links (i.e. the most absorptive root region) are also more abundant, longer, thinner and with higher SVR for non-resprouters. Thus seedling root structure of non-resprouters species allows them to explore more efficiently the upper soil layer, whereas seedling roots of resprouters will permit both carbon storage and deep soil penetration.

Whereas resprouters tend to maximize the surface and the efficiency of the organs for carbon uptake to ensure carbohydrate storage for resprouting (eg, higher SLA), non-resprouters maximize the root surface (eg, higher SRL), since their survival and growth may be limited by soil resources.

[1] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2006. Leaf traits and resprouting ability in the Mediterranean basin. Functional Ecology 20: 941-947. [doi | pdf]

[2] Paula S. & Pausas J.G. 2011. Root traits explain different foraging strategies between resprouting life histories. Oecologia 165:321-331 [doi | pdf]

Specific Root Length

Relationship between average root diameter and specific root length (SRL; log-scale) for resprouting (R+, closed symbols) and non-resprouting (R-, open symbols) species. Intraspecific variability is indicated by segments emerging from each symbol. From Paula & Pausas (Oecologia [2]).

Methods for community ecology

September 2nd, 2010 No comments

Why so many desert plant communities are dominated by spiny species, most of them cacti? The first observation refers to the community’s phenotypic structure and the second to its phylogenetic structure. What do these observations tell us about the mechanisms assembling these communities?

The way communities are assembled is an old ecological question currently experiencing renewed interest thanks to the recent advances in molecular biology and phylogenetics. The generality of these new methods has allowed us to understand the structure of communities of organisms from different kingdoms and at different scales. Concomitant with this growing interest, new methods, metrics, terms, and software have appeared that independently solve similar questions, but with different approaches. In this new paper we provide a unifying framework on methods for community structure based on the relationships between four key concepts: phylogeny, phenotype, environment, and co-occurrence. The different approaches are based on different community representations of traits, the phylogenetic relationships of species in the community, or species occurrence along the environmental gradients. We finally provide insights on future directions of this emerging discipline.

Pausas, J.G., Verdú, M. 2010. The jungle of methods for evaluating phenotypic and phylogenetic structure of communities. BioScience, 60: 614-625. [doi | pdf | slides]


Figure 1. Methods for analyzing community structure can be represented in a simple framework in which the relationships (arrows) between the four key concepts (phylogeny, phenotype, environment, and co-occurrence) are integrated. The numbers in brackets refer to:

(1) Co-occurrence pattern versus the random expectation

(2) Phenotype-based approach:

(2.1) Relationship between the species’ phenotypes and their co-occurrence (phenotypic community structure).

(2.2) Relationship between species response to the environment and the species phenotypes, controlling by the species’ phylogenetic relatedness (phenotypic community structure).

(3) Phylogeny-based approach:

(3.1) Relationship between the species’ phylogenetic relationships and their co-occurrence (phylogenetic community structure).

(3.2) Relationship between the species’ phenotypes and their phylogenetic relationships (trait evolution).

(4) Environment-based approach: relationship between species response to the environment and the co-occurrence, considering the phylogenetic relatedness (phylogenetic community structure).

See previous post [link] on the effect of fire in phenotypic and phylogenetic structure of communities.

Soil shapes community structure through fire

January 21st, 2010 No comments

Recurrent wildfires constitute a major selecting force in shaping the structure of plant communities. At the regional scale, fire favours phenotypic and phylogenetic clustering in Mediterranean woody plant communities. Nevertheless, the incidence of fire within a fire-prone region may present strong variations at the local, landscape scale. This study tests the prediction that woody communities on acid, nutrient-poor soils should exhibit more pronounced phenotypic and phylogenetic clustering patterns than woody communities on fertile soils, as a consequence of their higher flammability and, hence, presumably higher propensity to recurrent fire. Results confirm the predictions and show that habitat filtering driven by fire may be detected even in local communities from an already fire-filtered regional flora. They also provide a new perspective from which to consider a preponderant role of fire as a key evolutionary force in acid, infertile Mediterranean heathlands.

Ojeda, F., Pausas, J.G., Verdú, M. 2010. Soil shapes community structure through fire. Oecologia 163:729-735. [doi]  [pdf]

IMG_0270_Ojeda en su brezal_sm The first author in the flammable, low fertility community.

New paper: Regeneration traits and phylodiversity

October 29th, 2009 No comments

Coca M. & Pausas J.G. 2009. Regeneration traits are structuring phylogenetic diversity in cork oak (Quercus suber) woodlands. J. Veget. Sci. 20: 1009-1015  [Wiley] [doi] [pdf]

  • Question: What factors determine the deviations from the relationship between species richness (which considers species as independent entities) and phylogenetic diversity (PD) (which considers species relatedness)? What are the implications for community composition and phylogenetic structure?
  • Location: Los Alcornocales Natural Park, in southern Iberian Peninsula (Spain).
  • Methods: We recorded all woody species and geographical features on 94 (20 m × 20 m) plots of cork oak woodlands. Disturbance information was obtained from the Park records; precipitation was estimated from local maps. PD was computed as the minimum total length of all the phylogenetic branches spanning the set of species on each site. Then, PD was regressed against species richness to test to what extent the unexplained variance in this relationship could be accounted for by environmental variables and disturbances, and against the representation of species with different regeneration strategies.
  • Results: Species richness and PD are strongly related; however, the remaining variability can be explained by: (1) precipitation and disturbance, and (2) the proportion of seeder species. Thus, the PD both of areas with low precipitation and high disturbance, and of areas with a high representation of seeder species, is lower than what would be expected from the species richness.
  • Conclusions: Regeneration traits are important in structuring plant community composition; specifically, they contribute to shaping biodiversity in Mediterranean ecosystems. Species richness tends to overestimate biodiversity in highly disturbed systems.
Fig3_resid-propP The relationship between the residuals from the phylodiversity-species richness regression, and the proportion of post-disturbance seeding species (P+; r= -0.560, p< 0.0001). Negative residuals indicate lower phylogenetic diversity than expected from species richness values, that is, a tendency for phylogenetic clustering.

New paper: The BROT plant trait database

October 12th, 2009 No comments

Paula S, Arianoutsou M, Kazanis D, Tavsanoglu Ç, Lloret F, Buhk C, Ojeda F, Luna B, Moreno JM, Rodrigo A, Espelta JM, Palacio S, Fernández-Santos B, Fernandes PM, and Pausas JG. 2009. Fire-related traits for plant species of the Mediterranean Basin. Ecology 90: 1420. [doi] [ESA journals] [Ecological Archives E090-094] [pdf]

Updated version of the BROT database at the BROT web page.

An older version of the BROT database is included in the TRY initiative.