Waterlogging and canopy interact to control species recruitment in floodplains
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Functional ecology / British Ecological Society. - Oxford
, p. 918-926
University of Antwerp
1. The extent to which seedling recruitment contributes to local functional diversity depends on the environmental filters operating in a plant community. Classical community assembly models assume that habitat constraints and competition act like hierarchical filters with habitat filtering as the dominant one. Alternative models assume a synergic interaction since responses to environmental stress and competition may impose physiological trade-offs in plants. 2. River floodplains are an ideal system to test the relationship between habitat and competition filtering in community (re)assembly, as flooding causes changes in both habitat stress (waterlogging, resulting in anoxia and toxicity) and competition (dieback of vegetation) on one hand and acts as an effective seed dispersal vector on the other hand. 3. We conducted a mesocosm experiment on early community assembly from a pool of 34 floodplain species covering a wetness gradient. Seed mixtures were sown in a full factorial design with water level, canopy and mowing as controlling factors. We measured the biomass of all species after one growing season and determined germination and seedling growth traits, both outside (response to waterlogging/no waterlogging) and in a growth-chamber (response to light/darkness). 4. Species recruitment was analysed in relation to the controlling factors and measured functional traits using co-inertia analysis. Furthermore we analysed the effects of the controlling factors on several aspects of functional diversity. 5. There was no establishment in grass sward, unless mowing was applied. Species-rich communities only developed when germination and early establishment phases occurred on waterlogged bare soil. High water level did not suppress establishment but reduced the total biomass and lowered inter-specific competition. The effect of mowing on species richness depended upon the interplay between waterlogging and canopy. 6. Establishment success under canopy required seedling strategies to tolerate shade. The elimination of typical wetland specialists from oxic mesocosms was clearly an effect of their poorer and/or slower germination and lower competitive abilities in comparison to non-wetland plants, leading to their disappearance in this low-stress environment. 7. Our results indicate that single stress factors can enhance species richness and functional diversity through limiting competition but a synergic interaction of different stresses can lead to reduced richness.