Tree age and tree species shape positive and negative interactions in a montane meadow

D.Haugo, Ryan; B.Halpern, Charles
May 2010
Botany;May2010, Vol. 88 Issue 5, p488
Academic Journal
Few studies have considered how interactions between woody and herbaceous species change in direction or magnitude over time or with traits of the dominant woody species. We used a chronosequence approach to explore these interactions in a montane meadow in which Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud. and Abies grandis (Dougl. ex. D. Don) Lindl. have established gradually over a period of >70 years. Effects of individual trees (18–73 years old) were quantified by comparing plant community structure and composition under and adjacent to each tree. Trees generally exerted negative effects on cover and richness of resident meadow species and positive effects on colonizing forest herbs. Despite the average decline of meadow species under the canopy, cover was elevated (compared with adjacent meadow) under 33% of trees — most often under younger Pinus. Cover (but not richness) of meadow species declined with tree age, but the rate and magnitude of this decline did not differ under Pinus or Abies. In contrast, the cover and richness of forest herbs increased steeply with age under Abies, but not under Pinus. Our results illustrate the potential for complex and sometimes unpredictable interactions between woody and herbaceous species. A dynamic view of these relationships is critical for understanding or predicting the consequences of woody plant establishment in grassland and other herb-dominated ecosystems. Peu d'études ont porté sur la façon avec laquelle les interactions entre les espèces ligneuses et herbacées se modifient en direction et orientation avec le temps ou selon les caractères dominants des espèces ligneuses. Les auteurs ont utilisé une approche chronoséquentielle pour explorer ces interactions, dans une prairie montagnarde où le Pinus contorta Dougl. ex Loud. et l'Abies grandis (Dougl. ex. D. Don) Lindl. se sont graduellement établis au cours d'une durée > 70 ans. Ils ont quantifié les effets des arbres individuels (18–73 ans d'âge) en comparant la structure et la composition de la communauté sous et autour de chaque arbre. Les arbres exercent généralement une action négative sur la couverture et la richesse des espèces résidant en prairie et des effets positifs sur les herbes colonisant les forêts. En dépit d'un déclin moyen des espèces de prairie sous la canopée, la couverture demeure élevée (comparativement à la prairie adjacente) sous 33 % des arbres, le plus souvent de jeunes Pinus. La couverture (mais pas la richesse) par les espèces de prairie diminue avec l'âge des arbres, mais le taux et l'ordre de grandeur de ce déclin ne diffère pas entre les Pinus et les Abies. Par contre, la couverture et la richesse des herbes forestières augmentent rapidement avec l'âge sous les Abies mais pas sous les Pinus. Les résultats illustrent le potentiel d'interactions complexes et quelques fois imprévisibles qui existe entre les espèces ligneuses et herbacées. Une considération dynamique de ces relations apparaît nécessaire pour comprendre et prédire les conséquences de l'établissement de plantes ligneuses dans la prairie et autres écosystèmes dominés par des herbacées.


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