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Growth forms, dispersal strategies and taxonomic spectrum in a semi-arid shrubland in SE Spain

Navarro, T., Pascual, V., Alados, C.L., Cabezudo, B.
Journal of arid environments 2009 v.73 no.1 pp. 103-112
shrublands, semiarid zones, shrubs, forbs, grasses, seed dispersal, spatial distribution, seasonal variation, viability, Mediterranean climate, plant ecology, plant taxonomy, Spain
We have identified the dispersal strategies of major growth forms in a semi-arid Mediterranean shrubland of Cabo de Gata Natural Park (SE Spain), testing (1) whether dispersal strategies and antitelechoric mechanisms vary among growth forms and families, and (2) whether dispersal traits that identify dispersal strategies can be used to predict different ways of plant survival in response to seasonal changes in their habitat. In the survey, the data of 17 dispersal traits were collected of 140 species and analysed using cluster analysis and nonlinear principal components analysis. For shrubs and forbs, low diaspore release height, spheroidal diaspores with a low mass and small size and a low to high diaspore number were associated with restricted spatial dispersal. In contrast, medium to high release height, relatively large and heavy diaspores varying in shape and a high diaspore number were associated with developed spatial dispersal (telechory). Telechory is higher in shrubs than in forbs and grasses, where atelechory/antitelechory predominate. Dispersal was synchronized mainly with the drought period (July and August) and the beginning of the rainy season (October-December). 68% of shrubs and 61.6% of forbs were anemochores, whereas zoochory (6% of shrubs) and ballistic species (8% of shrubs and 6.9% of forbs) were less common. Ombrohydrochory was well represented among forbs (27.3%) but rare among shrubs (4%). The main antitelechoric mechanisms were: bradyspory (30.7%), myxospermy (15.7%) and trypanocarpy (29.4%, only for grasses). Species with restricted spatial dispersal and antitelechoric mechanisms are well adapted to survival in semi-arid climatic conditions, and should be taken into consideration in conservation planning.