Which climatic and edaphic parameters drive the co-existence of different plant functional types in European grasslands? (an EVA project)

Background: Grasslands are among the most diverse communities at small grain sizes. In experimental settings, it has repeatedly been shown that different life forms (hemicryptophytes, chamaephytes, therophytes) and functional groups (graminoids, legumes, non-legume forbs) show contrasting patterns of resistance and resilience to experimental drought or flooding. However, it is not well understood whether and how this differential behaviour in experimental setups translates into broad-scale biogeographic patterns of community assembly. We will use the comprehensive plot database European Vegetation Archive (EVA; http://euroveg.org/eva-database) that contains several 100,000 vegetation relevés of grasslands from nearly all European countries to analyse for the first time how the fraction of life forms and functional groups in grassland changes across the continent and whether this is related to climatically and edaphically driven moisture supply.


(a) Extract all grassland plots from EVA that have geo-references of a certain accuracy [we will either develop an own expert definition of “grassland” or use the one of the EEA project if available by then]

(b) Use the expert system for determination of main grassland types, which is currently being developed (Chytrý, Dengler,…) for the European Environment Agency (EEA), to assign each plot to one of these categories

(c) Use the Ecological Indicator Values for Europe (EIVE), initiated by a BayCEER-Anschubfinanzierung in 2015, to assign all species to life forms and functional groups and to calculate fractions of these per plot

(d) Create maps of fractional distributions of life forms and functional groups across Europe for all grasslands combined and for different types of grasslands separately

(e) Model these patterns with climatic and other geographic variables to understand which aspects of the climate drive the switch from perennial to annual species in grasslands and under which conditions a stable co-occurrence is possible etc.

Start: August 2016

Project leader: Jürgen Dengler (Bayreuth)

Other involved researchers from BayCEER: Severin Irl, Bettina Engelbrecht

Student assistant: Eva Klotzbücher

Project description: http://euroveg.org/requests/EVA-data-request-form-2016-08-22-Dengler.pdf

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