Objective: This empirical study was designed to explore the role of ecological features of species in the spatial patterning of a grassland community.
Location: Banks of the river Rhône in France.
Material and Methods: First, we explored the spatial pattern of 29 species recorded in the community using spatial autocorrelation analysis of species cover values. Second, we then explored the relationship between the patterns found and a set of life attributes that characterized the ecological features of species for resource foraging or dispersion. Finally, we explored the spatial relationship of groups of species that shared the same ecological features using cross-correlation analysis.
Results: We found a significant relationship between the spatial pattern and life attributes of the species highlighting three groups of species: (1) species characterized as competitors, reproducing by runner clonal organs and forming large, dense patches; (2) species characterized as competitive-ruderals, dispersing exclusively by seed production and forming small periodic patches; and (3) species classified as CSR, characterized by rosette morphology and short rhizomes as clonal organs without any significant spatial autocorrelation. Spatial segregation was found between group 1 and group 2 up to 14 m; no significant cross-correlation between groups 1 and 3 between 0 and 3.5 m, and association between groups 2 and 3 up to 14 m.
Conclusions: These results helped to understand how species attributes (relative to stature or dispersion abilities); external factors (such as disturbance) and biotic processes (competition) interplay in structuring the plant community under study in space.