Spatial and temporal functional changes in alpine summit vegetation are driven by increases in shrubs and graminoids

13080-TR1Classical approaches to investigating temporal and spatial changes in community composition offer only partial insight into the ecology that drives species distribution, community patterns and processes, whereas a functional approach can help to determine many of the underlying mechanisms that drive such patterns. In order to determine the mechanisms that drive changes in plant community composition across spatial and temporal scales, a new study published in AoB PLANTS by Venn et al. used plant functional traits to interpret the results of a repeat species survey across a gradient of five alpine summits in south-east Australia. Vegetation changes were strongly affected by the high and increasing proportion of tall shrubs and graminoids, especially at the lower elevation summits. Several significant relationships between the community trait-weighted mean of different traits and elevation suggest that processes such as competition are influencing vegetation preferentially across the elevation gradient, with shrubs and graminoids driving these patterns.

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