NCEAS Project 12558

Predicting grassland community responses to fertilization: Exploring the role of clonality and other species traits

  • Katherine L. Gross

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Sabbatical Fellow1st November 2010—31st March 2011Participant List  
Meeting3rd—5th November 2010Participant List  

Nutrient enrichment is predicted to be one of the top three drivers of biodiversity loss this century (Sala et al. 2000). It is therefore critical to understand how biodiversity will respond to elevated nutrient levels in different ecosystems, including what species or functional groups will come to dominate in high fertility environments and why. In grasslands, high fertility sites are often dominated by clonal species. The observation that declining or hump-shaped diversity-productivity relationships occur more frequently when clonal species are present suggests that clonal species may play an important role in community responses to nutrient enhancement. However, the mechanisms underlying this effect, or if there are specific traits of clonal species that determine their ability to dominate high fertility environments is unknown. As a Sabbatical Fellow as NCEAS, I propose to address this question by analyzing data from fertilization experiments combined with data bases of species traits to determine if there are correlated traits that determine when clonal species will dominate in response to nutrient enhancement and if there is an environmental context (site history, productivity, soil fertility, species and functional group composition) to this response. I have proposed three projects, two which I expect to complete while a Fellow; the third, I will initiate at NCEAS. The first two projects will build on my ongoing long-term research in SW Michigan grasslands and involvement in the Productivity-Diversity Traits Network (PDTNet). Using my own data, the PDTNetwork, and other published data, I will conduct a multi-variate analysis of species and environmental traits to determine what conditions promote (or preclude) dominance by clonal species in response to nutrient enrichment. The third project will be a literature survey to develop a global data base of published field experiments on grassland community responses to fertilization. This will form the basis of a trait-based meta-analysis and global synthesis of clonal species responses to and impacts on diversity in grasslands. I would expect this project to become the focus of a NSF-RCN or future working group proposal to the National Center for Environmental Synthesis.

TypeProduct of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Gough, Laura; Gross, Katherine L.; Cleland, Elsa E.; Clark, Christopher M.; Collins, Scott L.; Fargione, Joseph E.; Pennings, Steven C.; Suding, Katharine N. 2012. Incorporating clonal growth form clarifies the role of plant height in response to nitrogen addition. Oecologia. Vol: 169. Pages 1053-1062. (Online version)