Abstract Detail


Tate, Emily [1], Goodwillie, Carol [1].

Functional trait analysis of a plant community response to long-term fertilization.

Functional trait analysis can provide insight into the biological mechanisms underlying the effects of nutrient availability on plant communities. Functional traits are often treated as fixed species properties, but phenotypic responses to environmental conditions can contribute substantially to trait variation, and these effects are less often considered.  Traits associated with an exploitative resource use strategy have been shown to be common in high nutrient environments. Relative to species with more conservative resource use strategies, exploitative species tend to grow rapidly, producing cheap, short-lived structures. In an analysis that included phenotypic response to nutrients, we studied plant functional traits in a long-term fertilization study of a wetland habitat in the coastal plain of North Carolina. At year 15 of the experiment, plant community composition differs significantly between fertilized and unfertilized plots. To provide insight into the factors driving these differences in species abundance, we analyzed six leaf and whole plant traits associated with resource use strategy, measuring trait values in both fertilized and unfertilized plots.  Analysis of weighted trait means (species traits weighted by abundance) revealed significant differences between fertilized and unfertilized plots for most traits, with trait values associated with exploitative strategies generally found in fertilized plots. Variation in trait means was also associated with spatial variation in soil moisture, with drier sites dominated by species exhibiting more exploitative strategies. The magnitude of phenotypic responses to fertilization in trait values varied among species and contributed greatly to differences between treatments in weighted trait means. Our results underscore the importance of considering phenotypic plasticity in the analysis and interpretation of functional trait variation.

1 - East Carolina University, Biology, Greenville, NC, 27858, USA

functional traits
community ecology

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Abstract ID:360
Candidate for Awards:None

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