Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2014, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (9): 916-928.DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2014.00086

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Assembly patterns of plant functional traits in alpine meadow under disturbances by mowing and fertilization

LÜ Mei-Qiang1,ZHU Zhi-Hong1,*(),LI Ying-Nian2,YAO Tian-Hua1,PAN Shi-Yu1,KONG Bin-Bin1   

  1. 1College of Life Sciences, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an 710062, China
    2Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810001, China
  • Received:2014-01-08 Accepted:2014-07-14 Online:2014-01-08 Published:2014-09-22
  • Contact: ZHU Zhi-Hong


Aims Fully understanding the assembly patterns of plant functional traits in plant communities is a big challenge in the study of community ecology. The assembly patterns in alpline meadow and driving factors are still poorly known. In this study, experiments with different mowing intensities and various treatments of fertilization were conducted in alpline meadow for the purpose of improving the understanding of the assembly patterns of plant functional traits in plant community.
Methods Data on functional diversity of 10 traits for 33 species from 108 quadrats (with varying combinations of mowing and fertilization) were analyzed by randomizations tests, ANCOVA and regression analysis, respectively, for the trait convergence/divergence.
Important findings None of the traits studied showed consistently significant convergence or divergence pattern in integral gradients of fertilization and mowing treatments, while the ratios of quadrats assembled under deterministic and stochastic processes were 82.7% and 17.3%, respectively. Among the functional traits tested, growth form, life cycle, aboveground dry mass per plant, leaf area and leaf dry mass showed a stochastic pattern of assembly, but they were not affected by variations in mowing treatments and community characteristics (i.e. aboveground net primary productivity, biomass loss and vegetation height). Convergence or divergence patterns were shown in traits such as plant inclination, reproductive modes, nitrogen fixation, plant height and specific leaf area, which were affected by variations in mowing treatments and community characteristics. Among them, assembly patterns of plant inclination and specific leaf area were only affected by community characteristics, while nitrogen fixation, reproductive modes and plant height were affected by both mowing treatments and community characteristics. Moreover, the patterns of assembly varied by traits. Aboveground net primary productivity and biomass loss well explained variations in the assembly pattern of plant functional traits. Mowing and fertilization showed the reversed effects on the assembly pattern of plant height, while no significant interaction was found between mowing and fertilization. The results suggested that there were different assembly patterns of functional traits in the community: stochastic pattern of assembly was the primary, and the deterministic pattern was secondary. Deterministic pattern was trait-dependent and correlated with variations in mowing treatments and community characteristics. The balancing effect of opposite selection forces, on the other hand, could lead to stochastic assembly patterns in plant functional traits.

Key words: community assembly, ecological filters, functional diversity, trait convergence, trait divergence