Variations in functional diversity in snowbed plant communities determining snowbed continuity

B. Komac, C. Pladevall, J. Peñuelas, J. V. Conesa, M. Domènech

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    © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Snowbed habitats are home to plant species that have adapted to particular environmental conditions (i.e. long-lasting snow cover and short growing seasons). The presence of most of these species is dependent on a long period of snow cover and so their conservation may well depend in the future on their ability to adapt to the effects of climate change. The aim of this study was to assess the persistence of snowbed communities using functional trait and functional diversity indices. We used data for plant species abundances from 32 snowbeds in Andorra (Pyrenees) classified according to certain environmental variables (elevation, exposure, soil type and temperature) and snow cover duration. Nine functional traits were used to evaluate the functional diversity, which was characterised as consisting of functional richness, functional evenness, functional dispersion, functional divergence and the community-weighted mean trait values. In two snowbeds, plant traits were also recorded and variation analysed along a snowmelt gradient. We found that snowbed specialist species had functional traits that were well adapted to the particular abiotic conditions of snowbed habitats but that there was a predominance of the functional traits of grass species in species originating in neighbouring communities. We found less functional richness, fewer strategies and lower competitive ability in the adapted species as the severity of the abiotic conditions increased. Snowbed specialist species appear to be less sensitive to the length of the growing season than species from neighbouring communities. Our results suggest that non-specialist species will tend to appear more frequently in those snowbed habitats affected by the reduction in snow cover duration.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1257-1274
    JournalPlant Ecology
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015


    • Climate change
    • Functional diversity
    • Functional traits
    • Pyrenees
    • Snowbeds


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