Main content area

A conceptual model of land use effects on the structure and function of herbaceous vegetation

McIntyre, S., Lavorel, S.
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2007 v.119 no.1-2 pp. 11-21
vegetation, plant communities, land use, land use change, population structure, plant ecology, simulation models, grasslands, land management, pastures, botanical composition, agroecosystems, ecosystem services, Australia
We apply an ecological perspective to the understanding of land use change and its implications for vegetation dynamics in the agro-pastoral zone of eastern temperate Australia. We have presented a state-and-transition model to describe in broadest terms the range of land uses that affect grassy vegetation. We predict the biological attributes of plant traits that are likely to be associated with different land uses and identify some gaps in our knowledge that are seen as necessary for future management of this land. These gaps reflect, to some extent, differences between ecological and agricultural disciplines in types and land uses for which data have been collected. In particular, the floristics and transitions involved in change of land use from fertilized pastures to native grassland is poorly understood. The plant traits associated with the more intensive land uses have not been described, and thus form a test for the predictions of plant trait changes that can be derived from other continents. We suggest that plant traits provide a vital link between vegetation change and ecosystem function, and are therefore a potentially important integration tool for understanding the consequences of land use change for ecosystem services.