Nutrient stoichiometry and land use rather than species richness determine plant functional diversity

Verena Busch, Valentin H. Klaus, Caterina Penone, Deborah Schäfer, Steffen Boch, Daniel Prati, Jörg Müller, Stephanie A. Socher, Ülo Niinemets, Josep Peñuelas, Norbert Hölzel, Markus Fischer, Till Kleinebecker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2017 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Plant functional traits reflect individual and community ecological strategies. They allow the detection of directional changes in community dynamics and ecosystemic processes, being an additional tool to assess biodiversity than species richness. Analysis of functional patterns in plant communities provides mechanistic insight into biodiversity alterations due to anthropogenic activity. Although studies have consi-dered of either anthropogenic management or nutrient availability on functional traits in temperate grasslands, studies combining effects of both drivers are scarce. Here, we assessed the impacts of management intensity (fertilization, mowing, grazing), nutrient stoichiometry (C, N, P, K), and vegetation composition on community-weighted means (CWMs) and functional diversity (Rao's Q) from seven plant traits in 150 grasslands in three regions in Germany, using data of 6 years. Land use and nutrient stoichiometry accounted for larger proportions of model variance of CWM and Rao's Q than species richness and productivity. Grazing affected all analyzed trait groups; fertilization and mowing only impacted generative traits. Grazing was clearly associated with nutrient retention strategies, that is, investing in durable structures and production of fewer, less variable seed. Phenological variability was increased. Fertilization and mowing decreased seed number/mass variability, indicating competition-related effects. Impacts of nutrient stoichiometry on trait syndromes varied. Nutrient limitation (large N:P, C:N ratios) promoted species with conservative strategies, that is, investment in durable plant structures rather than fast growth, fewer seed, and delayed flowering onset. In contrast to seed mass, leaf-economics variability was reduced under P shortage. Species diversity was positively associated with the variability of generative traits. Synthesis. Here, land use, nutrient availability, species richness, and plant functional strategies have been shown to interact complexly, driving community composition, and vegetation responses to management intensity. We suggest that deeper understanding of underlying mechanisms shaping community assembly and biodiversity will require analyzing all these parameters.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)601-616
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


    • biodiversity exploratories
    • fertilization
    • leaf economics
    • mowing
    • nutrient availability
    • nutrient ratios
    • phosphorus
    • plant functional traits
    • plant strategies
    • seed mass

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