Species turnover reveals hidden effects of decreasing nitrogen deposition in mountain hay meadows

Roth, Tobias and Kohli, Lukas and Buehler, Christoph and Rihm, Beat and Meuli, Reto Giulio and Meier, Reto and Amrhein, Valentin. (2019) Species turnover reveals hidden effects of decreasing nitrogen deposition in mountain hay meadows. PeerJ, 7. e6347.

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Nitrogen (N) deposition is a major threat to biodiversity in many habitats. The recent introduction of cleaner technologies in Switzerland has led to a reduction in the emissions of nitrogen oxides, with a consequent decrease in N deposition. We examined different drivers of plant community change, that is, N deposition, climate warming, and land-use change, in Swiss mountain hay meadows, using data from the Swiss biodiversity monitoring program. We compared indicator values of species that disappeared from or colonized a site (species turnover) with the indicator values of randomly chosen species from the same site. While oligotrophic plant species were more likely to colonize, compared to random expectation, we found only weak shifts in plant community composition. In particular, the average nutrient value of plant communities remained stable over time (2003-2017). We found the largest deviations from random expectation in the nutrient values of colonizing species, suggesting that N deposition or other factors that change the nutrient content of soils were important drivers of the species composition change over the last 15 years in Swiss mountain hay meadows. In addition, we observed an overall replacement of species with lower indicator values for temperature with species with higher values. Apparently, the community effects of the replacement of eutrophic species with oligotrophic species was outweighed by climate warming. Our results add to the increasing evidence that plant communities in changing environments may be relatively stable regarding average species richness or average indicator values, but that this apparent stability is often accompanied by a marked turnover of species.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Integrative Biologie > Behavioural Ecology (Amrhein)
UniBasel Contributors:Amrhein, Valentin
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:19 Jul 2019 12:01
Deposited On:19 Jul 2019 12:01

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