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Is water the key for plant coexistence? Evaluating hydrological plant niches from physiological mechanisms to community composition

Bettina Engelbrecht1
1 Functional and Tropical Plant Ecology, BayCEER

Keynote I in Keynotes

02.10.2014, 09:10-09:50, H36, NW III

Diversity of plants is impressive: more than 60 species can coexist in a single square meter in temperate grasslands, and more than 600 in a single hectare of tropical rainforest. One of the main questions in ecology is, why so many species can coexist. Why aren’t a few successful species taking over? The topic has been the subject of very active scientific debate in the last decade, but remains largely unresolved. 

Which processes are governing diversity has far reaching consequences for projecting consequences of climate change for species distributions, community composition and ecosystem function. Recent papers have suggested water in space and time matters most, i.e. that the main axis of plant niche differentiation is a trade-off between tolerance to drought and tolerance to water logging, and that the resulting hydrological niches may shape diversity patterns worldwide. 

While this trade-off has been convincingly shown phenomenologically, its hypothesized underlying mechanisms and the emerging consequences for community composition remain unexplored. In this talk I will outline some of the key questions that remain open, and possible approaches to address them through linking ecological and environmental research at various scales.

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last modified 2014-09-29