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21 June 2019 Plant Functional Trait Response to Habitat Change and Grazing in a Semiarid Grassland: Unravelling Species Turnover and Intraspecific Variation Effects
Jing Zhang, Xiaoan Zuo, Peng Lv, Shenglong Zhao, Xueyong Zhao
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Abstract

Plant community assembly is determined by species turnover and intraspecific trait variations (ITV) controlled by environment changes. However, little is known about how species turnover and ITV affect the responses of plant community to habitat changes and grazing disturbance in semiarid grasslands. Here, we measured five functional plant traits in four typical grassland habitats under fencing and grazing disturbance in a semiarid grassland, Northern China, including plant height, specific leaf area (SLA), leaf dry matter content (LDMC), leaf nitrogen content (LNC) and leaf carbon: nitrogen ratio (C:N). We also calculated the community weighted means (CWM) and non-weighted means (CM) of all traits and examined the relative roles of species turnover and ITV in affecting the responses of community traits to habitat changes and grazing disturbance. Our results showed that the CWM and CM values of five functional traits differed with grassland habitat changes. As compared to other grasslands, the Stipa steppe had the higher plant height, the sandy grassland had the higher SLA and lower LDMC, and the meadow had the lower LNC and higher C:N. Grazing decreased plant height across grassland habitats, as well as decreased SLA and increased LDMC in meadow. The responses of all community-level traits to habitat changes were driven by species turnover, while the responses of phenotypic traits (height, SLA and LDMC) to grazing were determined by both species turnover and ITV. So, we argue that ITV should be considered when understanding plant community assembly under grazing disturbance regime in semiarid grasslands.

Jing Zhang, Xiaoan Zuo, Peng Lv, Shenglong Zhao, and Xueyong Zhao "Plant Functional Trait Response to Habitat Change and Grazing in a Semiarid Grassland: Unravelling Species Turnover and Intraspecific Variation Effects," Polish Journal of Ecology 67(1), 62-74, (21 June 2019). https://doi.org/10.3161/15052249PJE2019.67.1.005
Received: 1 January 2019; Published: 21 June 2019
JOURNAL ARTICLE
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KEYWORDS
grassland habitat change
grazing
intraspecific variation
Plant functional trait
species turnover
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