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Timing of snowmelt affects species composition via plant strategy filtering
journal contributionposted on 2019-03-01, 00:00 authored by M Good, J W Morgan, Susanna VennSusanna Venn, P Green
© 2019 Gesellschaft für Ökologie Plant strategy schemes aim to classify plants according to measurable traits and group species according to their shared evolutionary responses to selective pressures. In this way, it becomes possible to make meaningful comparisons among ecosystems and communities and to predict how plant communities might respond to changes in their environment. Here, we classified common alpine plants which occur in snowpatches (Early and Late snowmelt sites) and in adjacent vegetation (Snow-free sites which melt early in the growing season) using Grime's CSR plant strategy scheme. Alpine plant communities are largely driven by environmental filters associated with a relatively constant gradient of snowmelt timing. Since snow persistence influences the abiotic environment and plant assemblages alike, we hypothesised that these patterns would be reflected in community CSR scores. Weighted community CSR scores were clustered towards the stress-tolerator (S) corner of the triangular CSR space, and Snow-free communities were significantly more stress-tolerant than Early and Late snowmelt communities. This suggests that snowpatch communities are functionally distinct from surrounding vegetation when considering the major axes of plant variation identified by CSR theory. These results lend further support to the importance of the timing of snowmelt as a key filter, influencing how species and plant strategy types distribute themselves across the alpine landscape.