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Inter-and intraspecific variability of plant individual growth and its role on species ranking in grasslands

Abstract : Aims Individual growth constitutes a major component of individual fitness. However, measuring growth rates of herbaceous plants non-destructively at the individual level is notoriously difficult. This study, based on an accurate non-destructive method of aboveground biomass estimation, aims to assess individual relative growth rates (RGRs) of some species, identify its environmental drivers and test its consequences on community patterning. We specifically address three questions: (i) to what extent environmental conditions explain differences in individual plant growth between sites, (ii) what is the magnitude of intraspecific variability of plant individual growth within and between sites and (iii) do species-averaged (dis-)advantage of individual growth compared with the whole vegetation within a site correlate with species ranking at the community level? Methods We monitored the growth of individuals of four common perennial species in 18 permanent grasslands chosen along a large pedoclimatic gradient located in the Massif Central, France. We measured soil properties, levels of resources and meteorological parameters to characterize environmental conditions at the site level. This design enables us to assess the influence of environmental conditions on individual growth and the relative extent of inter-individual variability of growth explained within and between sites. We determined the ranking of each of the four species in each site with botanical surveys to assess the relationship between species-averaged growth (dis-) advantage relative to the whole community and species rank in the community. Important Findings We found that environmental conditions explain a significant proportion of individual growth variability, and that this proportion is strongly variable between species. Light availability was the main driver of plant growth, followed by rainfall amount and potential evapotranspiration, while soil properties had only a slight effect. We further highlighted a moderate to high within-site interindividual variability of growth. We finally showed that there was no correlation between species ranking and species-averaged individual growth.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 3:15:44 PM
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Rémi Perronne, Franck Jabot, Julien Pottier. Inter-and intraspecific variability of plant individual growth and its role on species ranking in grasslands. Journal of Plant Ecology, Wiley, 2020, 13 (3), pp.378-386. ⟨10.1093/jpe/rtaa021⟩. ⟨hal-02939350⟩



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