Impact of weather on dynamics of plant functional groups in an abandoned limestone grassland

Zbigniew Dzwonko, Stefania Loster


We examined to what extend the rate and direction of changes in unmanaged grassland depend on fluctuations in climatic conditions. Vegetation data from permanent plots in a semi-natural grassland in southern Poland collected over 12 years were used. Relations between weather variables, time, and the cover of 41 more frequent species and 14 plant functional groups were analysed. The greatest effect on the dynamics of species and functional groups had precipitation in spring and/or early summer, particularly in the current year. The majority of plant groups were significantly affected also by the temperature in spring and early summer in one of the three previous years. During 12 years, the cover of annuals and biennials, short plants, and plants with small leaves decreased, while the cover of taller plants, plants with larger leaves, and with vegetative spread increased. The analyses suggest that these successional changes were not directly associated with climatic conditions but were affected by them indirectly through interspecific competition. The fluctuations in climatic conditions, chiefly precipitation, had a significant effect on both the composition and the rate of changes in abandoned grassland. The increase in the cover of tall perennial species with broad leaves hindered succession towards woodland despite of the presence of woods in the closed vicinity. It can be expected that during drier periods colonisation of grassland by later successional species could be easier.


permanent plots; plant functional groups; plant-weather relations; secondary succession; southern Poland; time series

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