University of Oulu

Plant community dynamics in tundra: propagule availability, biotic and environmental control

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Author: Eskelinen, Anu1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2009
Publish Date: 2009-11-24
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science of the University of Oulu for public defence in Kuusamonsali (Auditorium YB210), Linnanmaa, on 4 December 2009, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Katherine L. Gross
Doctor René van der Wal


Plant community composition and diversity are determined by the balance between rates of immigration and extinction. Processes of immigration to a local community, i.e. propagule availability and dispersal of propagules between and within habitats, set the upper limit for the pool of species potentially capable of coexisting in a community, while local biotic interactions, i.e., competition, facilitation, herbivory and interactions with below-ground ecosystem components, and environmental factors control colonisation and establishment, and determine the persistence and dynamics of already existing species.

In this thesis, I studied (1) the interactions between propagule availability, biotic and environmental constraints on colonisation, and (2) the interdependence between biotic and environmental factors regulating community processes in already established resident vegetation. First, I found that both propagule availability and competition with adult plants limited the rates of colonisation and total community diversity in a relatively low-productive tundra ecosystem. Long-term exclusion of mammalian herbivores and alleviation of nutrient limitation by fertilization increased the intensity of competition with established vegetation, and diminished immigration rates. In addition, I also found that community openness to colonization depended on the initial community properties, i.e., the functional composition and the traits of dominant plants in resident vegetation, which mediate the effects of nutrient addition and biomass removal on immigration rates. Second, adult plants in the resident vegetation experienced an increased extent of neighbourhood competition and herbivory in nutrient enriched conditions and in naturally more fertile habitats. However, the effects were also species-specific. On a community level, release from heavy grazing favoured lichens over graminoids and increased species richness. Furthermore, I also showed that plant community composition was strongly linked with soil organic matter quality and microbial community composition, and that these vegetation-soil-microbe interactions varied along a gradient of soil pH.

Overall, my results emphasise that propagule availability, biotic and environmental control over community processes are strongly interconnected in tundra ecosystems. Especially, my findings highlight the role of plant competition and herbivory and their dependence on soil nutrient availability in governing colonisation and resident community dynamics. My results also indicate that plant functional composition and traits of dominant plants are of great importance in channelling community responses to external alterations and dictating plant-soil interactions.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 978-951-42-9313-9
ISBN Print: 978-951-42-9312-2
Issue: 541
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2009. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.