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Function follows Form: Trait-based approaches to climate change effects on wetland vegetation and functioning
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1340-2039
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Climate change and habitat fragmentation are altering the structure and functioning of plant communities world-wide. Understanding how, why and with what consequences are major challenges of ecology today. Trait-based approaches focus on functional rather than taxonomic identity to facilitate process-based explanation and prediction. This thesis develops new ways of operationalising traits to understand plant community responses to the environment and community effects on ecosystem functioning and services. Wetlands, distinct in nature and patchy in their distribution, serve as a natural laboratory to extend plant trait theory and as inspiration for metacommunity modelling.

The first part of the thesis (Papers 1 and 2) focuses on wetland plant traits in relation to current and future environmental conditions, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services. Paper 1 surveys the state of knowledge regarding (i) ultimate and proximate drivers of wetland plant community functional composition, trait covariation and responses of individual traits along gradients, as well as (ii) trait effects on the sets of ecosystem properties and processes that underlie the generation of three key wetland ecosystem services (regulation of water flow, water quality, and climate). Paper 2 modifies species distribution modelling to predict future changes in plant community trait distributions due to climate change in central Sweden, which allows a qualitative estimate of changes in ecosystem service potential. Climate change induced functional changes may benefit water quality and flow regulation provided by fens and riparian wetlands, but compromise carbon sequestration capacity in bogs.

The second part of the thesis (Papers 3 and 4) develops trait-based metacommunity models to study the interplay of local and regional dynamics on species, community and whole-metacommunity responses to climate change. Paper 3 finds model assumptions about species dispersal capacity to strongly influence predictions of diversity loss following climate change. While differences in species dispersal capacity drastically increase predicted extinction risk, more realistic models based on an empirically derived seed mass – seed number trade-off strongly moderate these predictions. Without considering fitness effects of covarying traits, models that include variable dispersal capacities thus might overestimate extinction risk from climate change. Paper 4 studies the development and recovery of the regional average trait-lag of response trait distributions, as a direct measure of the instantaneous realised metacommunity response to temperature change with implications for levels of ecosystem functioning. The dynamical response jointly depended on local response capacity and regional adaptive re-organisation via species range shifts. Where habitat was scarce, connectivity network properties mediated response capacity and may guide conservation priorities.

This thesis makes contributions to plant trait ecology, wetland functional ecology, ecosystem service science and metacommunity theory. As a whole it furthers progress towards a predictive ecology that can bridge scales from individual physiology to ecosystem dynamics and anticipate global change effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University , 2016. , 45 p.
Keyword [en]
Functional traits, Plant community ecology, Trait distributions, Wetlands, Ecosystem functioning, Ecosystem Services, Climate change, Dispersal, Metacommunity modelling
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133488ISBN: 978-91-7649-499-8 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7649-500-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-133488DiVA: diva2:967340
Public defence
2016-11-02, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
A multiscale, cross‐disciplinary approach to the study of climate change effect on ecosystem services and biodiversity
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2016-10-10 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2016-09-28Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Towards a trait-based ecology of wetland vegetation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards a trait-based ecology of wetland vegetation
Show others...
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

1. Functional traits mechanistically capture plant responses to environmental gradients as well as plant effects on ecosystem functioning. Yet most trait-based theory stems from terrestrial systems and extension to other habitats can provide new insights.

2. Wetlands differ from terrestrial systems in conditions (e.g. soil water saturation, anoxia, pH extremes), plant adaptations (e.g. aerenchyma, clonality, ubiquity of bryophytes) and important processes (e.g. denitrification, peat accumulation, methane emission). Wetland plant adaptations and trait (co-)variation can be situated along major plant trait trade-off axes (e.g. the resource economics spectrum), but soil saturation represents a complex stress gradient beyond a simple extension of commonly studied water availability gradients.

3. Traits that affect ecosystem functioning overlap with patterns in terrestrial systems. But wetland-specific traits that mediate plant effects on soil redox conditions, microbial communities and on water flow, as well as trait spectra of mosses, vary among wetland types.

4. Synthesis: With increasing availability of quantitative plant traits a trait-based ecology of wetlands is emerging, with the potential to advance process-based understanding and prediction. We provide an interactive cause-and-effect framework that may guide research efforts to disentangle the multiple interacting processes involved in scaling from environmental conditions to ecosystem functioning via plant communities. 

Keyword
Plant–climate interactions, Bryophytes, Carbon sequestration, Hydrologic regulation, Methane emission, Nutrient retention, Peatlands, Plant economics spectrum, Plant functional traits, Trade-offs
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133473 (URN)
Funder
A multiscale, cross‐disciplinary approach to the study of climate change effect on ecosystem services and biodiversity
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2016-09-08Bibliographically approved
2. Predicting climate change effects on wetland ecosystem services using species distribution modeling and plant functional traits
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Predicting climate change effects on wetland ecosystem services using species distribution modeling and plant functional traits
2015 (English)In: Ambio, ISSN 0044-7447, E-ISSN 1654-7209, Vol. 44, 113-126 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Wetlands provide multiple ecosystem services, the sustainable use of which requires knowledge of the underlying ecological mechanisms. Functional traits, particularly the community-weighted mean trait (CWMT), provide a strong link between species communities and ecosystem functioning. We here combine species distribution modeling and plant functional traits to estimate the direction of change of ecosystem processes under climate change. We model changes in CWMT values for traits relevant to three key services, focusing on the regional species pool in the Norrstrom area (central Sweden) and three main wetland types. Our method predicts proportional shifts toward faster growing, more productive and taller species, which tend to increase CWMT values of specific leaf area and canopy height, whereas changes in root depth vary. The predicted changes in CWMT values suggest a potential increase in flood attenuation services, a potential increase in short (but not long)-term nutrient retention, and ambiguous outcomes for carbon sequestration.

Keyword
Functional traits, Ecosystem services, Climate change, Species distribution modeling, Wetlands, Sweden
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114252 (URN)10.1007/s13280-014-0593-9 (DOI)000347680100012 ()25576286 (PubMedID)
Note

AuthorCount:3;

Available from: 2015-03-26 Created: 2015-02-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
3. Life History Trade-off Moderates Model Predictions of Diversity Loss from Climate Change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life History Trade-off Moderates Model Predictions of Diversity Loss from Climate Change
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Climate change can trigger species range shifts, local extinctions and changes in diversity. Species interactions and differences in dispersal capacity are important mediators of community responses to climate change. The interaction between multispecies competition and differences in dispersal capacity has recently been shown to exacerbate the effects of climate change on diversity and to increase predictions of extinction risk dramatically. Differences in dispersal capacity, however, are part of a species' overall ecological strategy and are likely to trade off with other aspects of its life history that influence population growth and persistence. In plants, a well-known example is the trade-off between seed mass and seed number. The presence of such a trade-off might buffer the diversity loss predicted by models with random but neutral (i.e. not impacting fitness otherwise) differences in dispersal capacity.

Using a trait-based metacommunity model along a warming climatic gradient the effect of three different dispersal scenarios on model predictions of diversity change were compared. Adding random variation in species dispersal capacity (variable dispersal scenario) caused extinctions by the introduction of strong fitness differences due an inherent property of the dispersal kernel. Simulations including a fitness-equalising trade-off (trade-off scenario) based on empirical relationships between seed mass (here affecting dispersal distance, establishment probability, and seedling biomass) and seed number (fecundity) maintained higher initial species diversity and predicted lower extinction risk and diversity loss during climate change than simulations with variable dispersal capacity. Predictions including the seed mass - seed number trade- off were closer to predictions from models assuming uniform dispersal capacity (uniform dispersal scenario) than to models with random differences in dispersal capacity. Where climate change effects on large scale diversity patterns are of interest, the simplified assumption of uniform dispersal could therefore be the more cautious modelling choice. 

Keyword
Climate change, Dispersal, Life history trade-off, Seed mass - seed number trade-off, Plant metacommunity, Simulation modelling
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Biological Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133475 (URN)
Funder
A multiscale, cross‐disciplinary approach to the study of climate change effect on ecosystem services and biodiversity
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2017-07-10Bibliographically approved
4. Amplitude and timescale of metacommunity trait-lag response to climate change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Amplitude and timescale of metacommunity trait-lag response to climate change
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Climate change is altering the structure and functioning of communities. Trait-based approaches are powerful predictive tools that allow consideration of changes in structure and functioning simultaneously. The realised biomass-weighted trait distribution of a community rests on the ecophysiology of individuals, but integrates local species interactions and spatial dynamics that feed back to ecosystem functioning. Consider a response trait that determines species performance (e.g. growth rate) as a function of an environmental variable (e.g. temperature). The change in this response trait's distribution following directional environmental change integrates all factors contributing to the community's response and directly reflects the community's response capacity.

Here we introduce the average regional community trait-lag (TLMC) as a novel measure of whole-metacommunity response to warming. We show that functional compensation (shifts in resident species relative abundances) confers initial response capacity to communities by reducing and delaying the initial development of a trait-lag. Metacommunity adaptive capacity in the long-term, however, was dependent on dispersal and species tracking of their climate niche by incremental traversal of the landscape. With increasing inter-patch distances, network properties of the functional connectivity network became increasingly more important, and may guide prioritisation of habitat for conservation.

Keyword
Metacommunity, Trait distribution, CWMT, Trait-lag, Dispersal, Connectivity, Network, Climate change, Productivity, Response capacity
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-133476 (URN)
Funder
A multiscale, cross‐disciplinary approach to the study of climate change effect on ecosystem services and biodiversity
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2016-09-08Bibliographically approved

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