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Determining the important environmental variables controlling plant species community composition in mesotrophic grasslands in Great Britain

Kalusová, Veronika; Le Duc, Michael G.; Gilbert, Joanne C.; Lawson, Clare S.; Gowing, David J. G. and Marrs, Rob H. (2009). Determining the important environmental variables controlling plant species community composition in mesotrophic grasslands in Great Britain. Applied Vegetation Science, 12(4) pp. 459–471.

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Question: What is the relative importance of local site effects and selected important environmental variables in determining plant species composition? How do species respond to these environmental variables?

Location: Ten mesotrophic grassland sites of high conservation value in southern England.

Methods: Species cover was assessed in between 10 and 25 randomly selected 1-m2 quadrats at each site. At each quadrat degree of waterlogging (W), soil Olsen extractable phosphorus (P) and soil pH were measured. Variation partitioning was used to separate site and soil effects, and HOF (Huisman, Olff & Fresco) modelling was used to produce response curves for the major species on soil gradients, based on coenoclines derived from partial canonical correspondence analysis (pCCA).

Results: Variation partitioning identified Site as the most important environmental variable (34.6%). Only 18.7% was accounted for by the three soil variables together; W (degree of waterlogging), P and pH accounted for 11.1%, 5.7% and 4.3%, respectively in raw form with 2.4% shared. However, when Site and the other soil variables were removed the variation explained reduced to 2.3% for W, 1.1% for P and 1.0% for pH. The species responses to each of these soil environmental factors could be separated into four types on each gradient. Most species were abundant at low W, low soil P and intermediate pH.

Conclusions: Site-based factors were more important than the three soil variables, which were assumed to be directly or indirectly associated with productivity. This implies that each site has unique properties that are more important than the soil variables. The three soil factors were, however, significant and the groups of the most common species, based on significant response curves, can be used as a first approximation of indicators of environmental conditions in British mesotrophic grasslands for conservation. However, W accounted for most variation, and the current reliance on soil available P and soil pH for assessing conservation/restoration potential should be viewed with caution.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2009 International Association for Vegetation Science
ISSN: 1654-109X
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Environment, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: OpenSpace Research Centre (OSRC)
Item ID: 18652
Depositing User: Users 9 not found.
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2009 15:18
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2018 16:38
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