Article: article from journal or magazin.
Uneven rate of plant turnover along elevation in grasslands
Plant taxonomic and phylogenetic composition of assemblages are known to shift along environmental gradients, but whether the rate of species turnover is regular or not (e.g., accelerations in particular sections of the gradient) remains poorly documented. Understanding how rates of assemblage turnover vary along gradients is crucial to forecast where climate change could promote the fastest changes within extant communities. Here we analysed turnover rates of plant assemblages along a 2500 m elevation gradient in the Swiss Western Alps. We found a peak of turnover rate between 1800 and 2200 m indicating an acceleration of grassland compositional changes at the transition between subalpine and alpine belts. In parallel, we found a peak in phylogenetic turnover rate in Poales between 1700 m and 1900 and Super-Rosids between 1900 and 2300 m. Our results suggest that changes in abiotic or biotic conditions near the human-modified treeline constitute a strong barrier for many grassland plant species, which share analogous elevation range limits. We propose that this vegetation zone of high ecological transitions over short geographical distances should show the fastest community responses to climate change from the breakdown of barrier across ecotones.
Plant communities, Nestedness, Swiss Alps, Species diversity, Phylogenetic turnover
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