© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Botanical Society of China. All rights reserved. Aims: Extreme climatic events may have important consequences for plant community structure and composition. In 2005, a severe drought together with a cold winter promoted extensive damage and mortality in shrubland communities of southwest Spain (Doñana National Park). Here, we aim to identify the mechanisms underlying community stability (resistance and resilience) in response to this extreme climatic event, considering changes in the functional structure of these communities. Methods: We used a trait-based approach, quantifying variations in 10 functional traits at the community level (community weighted means, CWM) and the functional diversity (functional richness, evenness and divergence) in 18 plots at three different times: predating the climatic event (estimated from the sum of the live and dead volume of each species in 2007), and 2 and 8 years after the 2005 episode. We also quantified the differences in functional traits and functional diversity between adult and recruit stages, which allowed us to better understand the contribution of the recruitment to the maintenance of the functional structure and diversity of the community. Important Findings: Communities with higher functional divergence before the climatic event maintained nearly constant their levels of functional divergence 8 years after, but they were more prone to changes in species composition. Community resistance in terms of vegetation cover was positively correlated with root dry matter content, whereas community resilience was positively correlated with leaf chlorophyll (LChl). We also found that some values (weighted means) of functional community traits (such as root dry matter content and LChl) had increased 2 years after the event, returning to the pre-event conditions after 8 years. In addition, there was hardly any establishment of new species in the community and the recruits did not make substantial differences to the community functional structure. Only seed mass differed significantly between the adult and seedling stages. In summary, the extreme climatic event induced rapid vegetation changes, modifying several functional properties of the community, but, in spite of the occurrence of changes in species composition, a rapid convergence of these shrubland communities took place due to the replacement of species with functional redundancy, thus recovering the initial conditions and supporting the existence of strong mechanisms of functional resilience.
- Climate change
- Functional trait