The research aim was to understand how variation of temperature and water availability drives trait assemblage of seminatural grasslands in sub-Mediterranean climate, where climate change is expected to intensify summer aridity. In the central Italy, we recorded species abundance and elevation, slope aspect and angle in 129 plots. The traits we analysed were life span, growth form, clonality, belowground organs, leaf traits, plant height, seed mass, and palatability. We used Ellenberg's indicators as a proxy to assess air temperature and soil moisture gradients. From productive to harsh conditions, we observed a shift from tolerance to avoidance strategies, and a change in resource allocation strategies to face competition and stress or that maximize exploitation of patchily distributed soil resource niches. In addition, we found that the increase of temperature and water scarcity leads to the establishment of regeneration strategies that enable plants to cope with the unpredictability of changes in stress intensity and duration. Since the dry habitats of higher elevations are also constrained by winter cold stress, we argue that, within the sub-Mediterranean bioclimate, climate change will likely lead to a variation in dominance inside plant communities rather than a shift upwards of species ranges. At higher elevations, drought-adaptive traits might become more abundant on south-facing slopes that are less stressed by winter low temperatures; traits related to productive conditions and cold stress would be replaced on north-facing slopes by those adapted to overcome both the drought and the cold stresses.
|Titolo:||Environmental gradients and grassland trait variation: Insight into the effects of climate change|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2016|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Articolo|