The interdependence of species richness and plant biomass has widely been accepted as a general biodiversity rule. However, there is no information about how relationships are established during colonization and how total biomass is distributed among plants. The main objective of this study was to determine the role of several factors which we have hypothetized as affecting biomass distribution among species in an early old-field community. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment in a deeply ploughed Agropyro-Rumicion crispi community in the Basque Country (Spain). Light, water and soil nitrogen content were factorially manipulated resulting in eight experimental treatments. We also examined several site features, which could potentially influence final biomass distribution: seed bank composition, soil physico-chemical heterogeneity and cover and density of the dominant plant species in the community. A partition hypothesis testing approach using Redundancy Analysis was conducted to determine the fraction of biomass distribution variability assigned to each treatment and site feature. The most important species, in terms of biomass, were Agropyron repens, Sinapis arvensis, Arrhenatherum bulbosum and Picris echioides. As a general conclusion, biomass distribution among species during early secondary succession primarily depends on light availability and nitrogen supply. Several soil variables, such as magnesium, calcium and clay contents, also explain a relevant fraction of the biomass distribution among plant species. On the contrary, we found no effect of seed bank composition on biomass distribution. Finally, the total species number and cover of dominant species such as Sinapis arvensis, may determine final biomass distribution.
Abbreviations: DCA = Detrended Correspondence Analysis; GLM = General Linear Model; MANOVA = Multiple Analysis of Variance; PAR = Photosynthetically Active Radiation; RDA = Redundancy Analysis; TVE = Total Variation Explained; uSD = units of Standard Deviation.