Journal article

Plant traits in a state en transition framework as markers of ecosystems response to land-use change

Understanding and forecasting changes in plant communities, ecosystem properties, and their associated services requires a mechanistic link between community shifts and modifications in ecosystem properties. In this study, we test the hypothesis that plant traits can provide such a link. Using subalpine grasslands in the central French Alps as a case study, we investigate the response of plant traits to changes in soil resource availability and disturbance regimes associated with changing grassland management as well as the effects of changes in plant traits on measured ecosystem properties. We found that fertilization leads to greater specific leaf area and leaf nitrogen content which leads to greater productivity and faster litter decomposition, and that grazing leads to higher leaf toughness and leaf dry matter content which leads to lower productivity and slower decomposition compared to mowing. A state and transition model was used as a flexible conceptual tool for integrating data on community composition, plant traits, and ecosystem properties in the context of managementmediated successional dynamics in subalpine grasslands. Focusing on the biology driving the transition between grassland states, we incorporated plant traits into the formulation of a state and transition model and demonstrated how they could be used to provide a mechanistic link between community shifts and ecosystem properties under complex management regimes with strong land-use legacies.


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