Consistent replacement of small- by large-ranged plant species across habitats

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Ingmar Staude, Henrique Pereira, Gergana N. Daskalova, Markus Bernhardt-Römermann, Martin Diekmann, Harald Pauli, Hans Van Calster, Mark Vellend, Anne D. Bjorkman, Jörg Brunet


The direction and magnitude of long-term changes in local plant species richness are highly variable among studies, while species turnover is ubiquitous. However, it is unknown whether the nature of species turnover is idiosyncratic or whether certain types of species are consistently gained or lost across different habitats. To address this question, we analyzed the trajectories of 1,827 vascular plant species over time intervals of up to 78 years at 141 sites in three habitats in Europe – mountain summits, forests, and lowland grasslands. Consistent across all habitats, we found that plant species with small geographic ranges tended to be replaced by species with large ranges, despite habitat-specific trends in species richness. Our results point to a predictable component of species turnover, likely explained by aspects of species’ niches correlated with geographic range size. Species with larger ranges tend to be associated with nutrient-rich sites and we found community composition shifts towards more nutrient-demanding species in all three habitats. Global changes involving increased resource availability are thus likely to favor large-ranged, nutrient-demanding species, which are typically strong competitors. Declines of small-ranged species could reflect not only abiotic drivers of global change, but also biotic pressure from increased competition. Our study highlights the need to consider the traits of species such as the geographic range size when predicting how ecological communities will respond to global change.



Biodiversity, Life Sciences



Published: 2021-01-25 12:25


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

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Data and Code Availability Statement:
R code for all analyses and data visualization, and complete species list with species range sizes and GBIF urls (Data Table 1) are available on figshare at Species composition data for grasslands is available from published literature compiled in (18); for forest and alpine summits these data are available upon request from and, respectively.