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See detailQuantifying trait selection driving community assembly: a test in herbaceous plant communities under contrasted land use regimes
Sonnier, Grégory; Navas, Marie-Laure; Fayolle, Adeline ULg

in Oikos (2012), 121(7), 1103-1111

Plant traits are particularly important in determining plant community structure. However, how can one identify which traits are the most important in driving community assembly? Here we propose a method ... [more ▼]

Plant traits are particularly important in determining plant community structure. However, how can one identify which traits are the most important in driving community assembly? Here we propose a method 1) to quantify the direction and strength of trait selection during community assembly and 2) to obtain parsimonious lists of traits that can predict species relative bundances in plant communities. We tested our method using floristic data from 32 plots experiencing different treatments (fertilisation and grazing) in southern France. Twelve functional traits were measured on 68 species. We determined the direction and strength of selection on these 12 traits using a metric derived from a maximum entropy model (i.e. lambda). We then determined our parsimonious list of traits using a backward selection of traits based on these lambda values (for all treatments and in each treatment separately). We finally compared our method to two other methods: one based on iterative RLQ and the other based on an entropy-based forward selection of traits. We found major differences in the direction and strength of selection across the 12 traits and treatments. From the 12 traits, plant vegetative and reproductive heights, leaf dry matter content leaf nitrogen content, specific leaf area, and leaf phosphorus content were particularly important for predicting species relative abundances when considering all treatments together. Our method yielded results similar to those produced by the entropy-based approach but differed from those produced by the iterative RLQ, whose selected traits could not significantly predict species relative abundances. Together these results suggest that the assembly of these communities is primarily driven by a small number of key functional traits. We argue that our method provides an objective way of determining a parsimonious list of traits that together accurately predict community structure and which, despite its complementarities with entropy-based method, offers significant advantages. [less ▲]

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See detailEvolution of dispersal traits along an invasion route in the wind-dispersed Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae)
Monty, Arnaud ULg; Mahy, Grégory ULg

in Oikos (2010), 119

In introduced organisms, dispersal propensity is expected to increase during range expansion. This prediction is based on the assumption that phenotypic plasticity is low compared to genetic diversity ... [more ▼]

In introduced organisms, dispersal propensity is expected to increase during range expansion. This prediction is based on the assumption that phenotypic plasticity is low compared to genetic diversity, and an increase in dispersal can be counteracted by the Allee effect. Empirical evidence in support of these hypotheses is however lacking. The present study tested for evidence of differentiation in dispersal-related traits and the Allee effect in the wind-dispersed invasive Senecio inaequidens (Asteraceae). We collected capitula from individuals in ten field populations, along an invasion route including the original introduction site in southern France. In addition, we conducted a common garden experiment from field-collected seeds and obtained capitula from individuals representing the same ten field populations. We analysed phenotypic variation in dispersal traits between field and common garden environments as a function of the distance between populations and the introduction site. Our results revealed low levels of phenotypic differentiation among populations. However, significant clinal variation in dispersal traits was demonstrated in common garden plants representing the invasion route. In field populations, similar trends in dispersal-related traits and evidence of an Allee effect were not detected. In part, our results supported expectations of increased dispersal capacity with range expansion, and emphasized the contribution of phenotypic plasticity under natural conditions. [less ▲]

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See detailFiltration and digestion responses of an elementally homeostatic consumer to changes in food quality: a predictive model
Darchambeau, François ULg

in Oikos (2005), 111(2), 322-336

In the study of the stoichiometric relationship between autotrophs and herbivores, attention has been largely focused on effects of the encountered mismatch between needs and supplies of an element on ... [more ▼]

In the study of the stoichiometric relationship between autotrophs and herbivores, attention has been largely focused on effects of the encountered mismatch between needs and supplies of an element on herbivore growth and ecosystem processes. Herbivore adaptation to poor food quality has rarely been investigated. This study presents a predictive model of feeding, assimilation, digestion and excretion of Daphnia facing a dietary deficiency in phosphorus. Biochemical compounds in the food were divided into phosphorous and non-phosphorus compounds. It was assumed that Daphnia is able to differently assimilate both types of compounds by regulation of target specific digestive enzymes. Feeding rate was regulated by optimal gut residence time of food particles, and assimilation efficiency by gut residence time and optimal secretion of both classes of gut enzymes. The model predicted the optimal strategy for a consumer facing an elementally imbalanced diet: (1) increase the ingestion rate, and (2) increase the secretion rate of both classes of gut enzymes. It resulted in decreased C and nutrient assimilation efficiencies, increased C feeding costs, and reduced growth rate. Sensitivity analysis showed that these predictions were qualitatively not influenced by parameter values. An alternative model was tested that includes an additive term allowing the direct excretion of C assimilated in excess. Results showed that this strategy is not optimal for the consumer growth rate. In conclusion, the model supports the hypothesis that carbon ingested in excess may generate energy that can be used to obtain more nutrients by increased feeding rate. [less ▲]

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