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Fine-scale environmental heterogeneity and spatial niche partitioning among spring-flowering forest herbs.

Authors
  • Beck, Jared J1
  • Givnish, Thomas J1
  • 1 Department of Botany, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 430 Lincoln Drive, Madison, WI, 53706.
Type
Published Article
Journal
American Journal of Botany
Publisher
Wiley (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2021
Volume
108
Issue
1
Pages
63–73
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1002/ajb2.1593
PMID: 33426671
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

Environmental heterogeneity influences plant distributions and diversity at several spatial scales. In temperate forests, fine-scale environmental variation may promote local coexistence among herbaceous species by allowing plants to spatially partition microsites within forest stands. Here we argue that shallow soils, low soil water-holding capacity and fertility, and reduced light near tree boles should favor short, shallow-rooted, evergreen species like Anemone acutiloba with low moisture, nutrient, and light requirements. Farther from trees, richer, deeper soils should favor taller, deeper-rooted herbs with greater moisture and nutrient demands, such as Sanguinaria canadensis and Trillium flexipes. We tested these hypotheses by mapping the fine-scale distributions of Anemone, Sanguinaria, and Trillium individuals within a 50 × 50 m plot, comparing local species' distributions with respect to soil depth and proximity to neighboring trees, and characterizing intraspecific and interspecific spatial associations. Local plant distributions were consistent with our predictions based on leaf height, physiology, and phenology. Anemone was found in microsites on shallower soils and closer to trees than either Sanguinaria or Trillium. In all three species, individual plants were spatially aggregated within 2 m, but spatially segregated from individuals of the other species beyond 2 m. Differential plant responses to fine-scale environmental heterogeneity and observed spatial associations suggest that local species-environment associations could facilitate coexistence. These findings illustrate how fine-scale environmental heterogeneity coupled with phenological and physiological differences likely contribute to spatial niche partitioning among spring-flowering forest herbs and maintain high local plant diversity within temperate forests. © 2021 Botanical Society of America.

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