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Trophic-level differences in functional composition of the Nardus grassland vegetation

Unuk, T., Pipenbaher, N., Škornik, S.
Plant biosystems 2018 v.152 no.5 pp. 1134-1140
Nardus, calcifuges, chamaephytes, data collection, eutrophication, flowering, geophytes, grazing, highlands, land management, meadows, plant communities, trophic levels, Slovenia
In this study, we examined floristic and functional composition of Nardus grassland of the highlands of NE Slovenia. The data-set included 55 relevés, 59 plant species, and 17 plant functional traits (PFT). The TWINSPAN classification resulted in two plant communities; calcifuge species (G1_oligotr) and another group of species characteristic of mesotrophic meadow (G2_mesotr). On the basis of selected PFT 11 out of 17 differ significantly between the groups. Group G1_oligotr had higher community-weighted mean trait values for chamaephytes (G1 = 0.09; G2 = 0.02), geophytes (G1 = 0.03; G2= 0.01), competitors (G1 = 0.43; G2 = 0.41) and plants that start flowering later (G1 = 142.84; G2 = 136.69). On the other side was G2_mesotr represented with more plants that are therophytes (G1 = 0.04; G2 = 0.09), creeping (G1 = 0.01; G2 = 0.12) and short-lived (G1 = 0.04; G2 = 0.11) and have longer flowering period (G1 = 3.24; G2 = 3.60). Differences may reflect the stronger effect of disturbance and eutrophication in G2_mesotr, probably due to intensification of grassland management (grazing) in the region. Our findings are significant in understanding the relative influence of environmental stress and disturbance within Nardus grasslands, and this may have important implications for their conservation management.