Special Issue "Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice"

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Plant Diversity".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Giovanni Bacaro
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Life Sciences, University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy
Interests: biodiversity conservation; rarefaction methods; plant ecology; biological invasion; sampling design; spatial autocorrelation; diversity patterns; multivariate analysis
Dr. Simona Maccherini
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Life Sciences, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy
Interests: monitoring restoration; cross-taxon congruence; grassland ecology; biodiversity conservation; biodiversity assessment
Dr. Michela Marignani
Website
Guest Editor
Department of Environment and Life Sciences , Università di Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy
Interests: use of floristic and vegetation data to prioritize sites for the conservation of botanical diversity multitaxa approach; landscape scale analyses, studies on the effects of fragmentation on biodiversity; definition of ecological networks at different scale; conservation social sciences and Invasive Alien Species

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Plant community ecology is the study of the organization and functioning of plant communities. It includes the study of the interactions between species, the evolutionary pathways of adaptation to the environment where plants live, and the dynamics and structure of the community. This discipline is based on common definitions and analytical methodologies that date back decades. To date, the relevant scientific literature has focused on plant community definitions, coexistence theories, assembly rules, pattern of species richness and surrogacy, sampling strategies, and data analysis methods. This Special Issue is dedicated to debates around the modern concept of plant communities both from a theoretical and an applied point of view. The issue will bring together a collection of valuable articles that will serve as a foundation for innovative ideas and as a reference point for the future.

Prof. Giovanni Bacaro
Dr. Simona Maccherini
Dr. Michela Marignani
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Diversity is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Species coexistence
  • Plant community sampling methods
  • Plant species interactions
  • Definition of plant community
  • Assembly rules
  • Diversity patterns
  • Community monitoring
  • Species–environment relationship

Published Papers (9 papers)

Order results
Result details
Select all
Export citation of selected articles as:

Editorial

Jump to: Research

Open AccessEditorial
Practice Must Be Backed up by Theory! A Special Issue on Plant Community Ecology
Diversity 2020, 12(11), 438; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12110438 - 21 Nov 2020
Abstract
Plant communities form the structural and functional basis for nearly all terrestrial ecosystems [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Open AccessArticle
Recognition and Characterization of Forest Plant Communities through Remote-Sensing NDVI Time Series
Diversity 2020, 12(8), 313; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12080313 - 14 Aug 2020
Abstract
Phytosociology is a reference method to classify vegetation that relies on field data. Its classification in hierarchical vegetation units, from plant associations to class level, hierarchically reflects the floristic similarity between different sites on different spatial scales. The development of remotely sensed multispectral [...] Read more.
Phytosociology is a reference method to classify vegetation that relies on field data. Its classification in hierarchical vegetation units, from plant associations to class level, hierarchically reflects the floristic similarity between different sites on different spatial scales. The development of remotely sensed multispectral platforms as satellites enormously contributes to the detection and mapping of vegetation on all scales. However, the integration between phytosociology and remotely sensed data is rather difficult and little practiced despite being a goal for the modern science of vegetation. In this study, we demonstrate how normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) time series with functional principal component analysis (FPCA) could support the analyses of phytosociologists. The approach supports the recognition and characterization of forest plant communities identified on the ground by the phytosociological approach by using NDVI time series that encode phenological behaviors. The methodology was evaluated in two study areas of central Italy, and it could characterize and discriminate six different forest plant associations that have similar dominant tree species but distinct specific composition: three dominated by black hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) and three dominated by holm oak (Quercus ilex). The methodology was also able to optimize the ground data collection of unexplored areas (from a phytosociological point of view) by using a phenoclustering approach. The obtained results confirmed that by using remote sensing, it is possible to separate and distinguish plant communities in an objective/instrumental way, thus overcoming the subjectivity intrinsic to the phytosociological method. In particular, FPCA functional components (NDVI seasonalities) were significantly correlated with vegetation abundance data variation (Mantel r = 0.76, p < 0.001). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Open AccessArticle
Lichen Distribution Patterns in the Ecoregions of Italy
Diversity 2020, 12(8), 294; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12080294 - 28 Jul 2020
Abstract
An outline of the main distribution patterns of lichens in the ecoregions of Italy, accounting for their climatic, geographic, and environmental features, is still missing. On the basis of a GIS-based analysis, we summarized: (1) the main features (e.g., surface, climate, landscape, topographic [...] Read more.
An outline of the main distribution patterns of lichens in the ecoregions of Italy, accounting for their climatic, geographic, and environmental features, is still missing. On the basis of a GIS-based analysis, we summarized: (1) the main features (e.g., surface, climate, landscape, topographic heterogeneity, bedrock, eutrophication) of the 9 ecoregions adopted in ITALIC, the information system on Italian lichens, and (2) the patterns of richness, functional traits, and ecological requirements of lichens in the ecoregions. Our GIS-based analysis describes for the first time the main features of the 9 ecoregions adopted in ITALIC, highlighting differences which could explain the main lichen patterns. Overall, the exploration of the Italian lichen biota is still a work in progress, some regions being still underexplored, especially in the South, with new taxa being reported every year. Our research could provide a baseline for further advancements in the understanding of species richness and community composition of Italian lichens, at a regional scale. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Open AccessArticle
Patterns of Co-occurrence of Rare and Threatened Species in Winter Arable Plant Communities of Italy
Diversity 2020, 12(5), 195; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12050195 - 15 May 2020
Cited by 1
Abstract
Detecting patterns of species co-occurrence is among the main tasks of plant community ecology. Arable plant communities are important elements of agroecosystems, because they support plant and animal biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. These plant communities are shaped by both agricultural and environmental [...] Read more.
Detecting patterns of species co-occurrence is among the main tasks of plant community ecology. Arable plant communities are important elements of agroecosystems, because they support plant and animal biodiversity and provide ecosystem services. These plant communities are shaped by both agricultural and environmental drivers. The pressure of intensive agriculture worldwide has caused the decline of many characteristic arable species and communities. Italy is the European country where arable plant biodiversity is the best preserved. In this study, we assessed the patterns of co-occurrence of rare and threatened arable plants in 106 plots of winter arable vegetation located from Piedmont to Calabria, in the mainland part of the country. For this purpose, we based our investigation on the analysis of a recently acquired dataset and on the European list of rare and threatened arable plants. We highlight how different species of conservation interest tend to occur in the same community. On the other hand, generalist and more competitive taxa show similar patterns of co-occurrence. We suggest that single species of conservation value could be suitable indicators of a well-preserved community. On the other hand, to be effective, conservation strategies should target the whole community, rather than single species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Open AccessArticle
Common Patterns and Diverging Trajectories in Primary Succession of Plants in Eastern Alpine Glacier Forelands
Diversity 2020, 12(5), 191; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12050191 - 12 May 2020
Abstract
This paper deals with the vegetation development in four glacier forelands, aligned along a distance of 250 km from West to East in the siliceous Eastern Central Alps. The study employs a chronosequence approach, which assumes a temporal sequence in vegetation development by [...] Read more.
This paper deals with the vegetation development in four glacier forelands, aligned along a distance of 250 km from West to East in the siliceous Eastern Central Alps. The study employs a chronosequence approach, which assumes a temporal sequence in vegetation development by spatially different sites regarding time since deglaciation. The chronosequences cover the area between Little Ice Age (LIA) maximum glacier extent around 1850, and the current glacier terminus. Despite some shortcomings, chronosequences allow the identification of general patterns of primary succession of plants as a function of site age and local environmental conditions, e.g., changes in species richness, ground cover, plant functional traits, and community structure. While there is no shortage of chronosequence studies in glacier forelands of the Alps, a straightforward comparison aimed at the deduction of general successional trajectories is tricky, due to different procedures of vegetation sampling and data analyses. The comparative examination by a standardized sampling and analyzing protocol of four glacier forelands in the Eastern Central Alps presented here proves the existence of several common patterns in primary succession, but also diverging successional trajectories from West to East. While the pioneer stage in all glacier forelands is similar both floristically and structurally, from the early successional stage onwards, differences increase, leading to different phases in the late successional stage, which is shrub dominated throughout in the westernmost study site, herb–grass–dwarfshrub dominated throughout in the easternmost study site, and divided into an earlier herb–grass–dwarfshrub phase and a later shrub phase in the two study sites in between. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Graphical abstract

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Effect of Invasive Alien Species on the Co-Occurrence Patterns of Bryophytes and Vascular Plant Species—The Case of a Mediterranean Disturbed Sandy Coast
Diversity 2020, 12(4), 160; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12040160 - 20 Apr 2020
Abstract
Cross-taxon analyses can explain patterns of interaction between taxa and their application in conservation studies can drive management actions. In a coastal sand dune system characterized by a high human pressure, we explored the co-occurrence patterns between vascular plants and bryophytes, with a [...] Read more.
Cross-taxon analyses can explain patterns of interaction between taxa and their application in conservation studies can drive management actions. In a coastal sand dune system characterized by a high human pressure, we explored the co-occurrence patterns between vascular plants and bryophytes, with a focus on how the occurrence of invasive alien species (IAS) can affect those taxa and their relationships. Species congruences were evaluated at the community level considering taxonomic and functional diversities. Predictive co-correspondence analysis (Co-CA) was applied to quantify the strength of vascular plant communities in predicting bryophytes species composition. The relationship between the composition of vascular plants and bryophytes was significant, even if weak. Altitude and percentage of bare soil cover are the environmental variables exerting greater influence on the two taxa. The presence of IAS affects communities in an opposite way: for vascular plants, species richness increases with the presence of invasive alien species; for bryophytes, IAS’s presence has a low but significant negative influence, both on species richness and in terms of functional diversity. Results give elements for future studies on the effect of IAS on the bryophytes colonizing coastal sand dunes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Functional Divergence Drives Invasibility of Plant Communities at the Edges of a Resource Availability Gradient
Diversity 2020, 12(4), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12040148 - 09 Apr 2020
Cited by 3
Abstract
Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are a serious threat to biodiversity, severely affecting natural habitats and species assemblages. However, no consistent empirical evidence emerged on which functional traits or trait combination may foster community invasibility. Novel insights on the functional features promoting community invasibility [...] Read more.
Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are a serious threat to biodiversity, severely affecting natural habitats and species assemblages. However, no consistent empirical evidence emerged on which functional traits or trait combination may foster community invasibility. Novel insights on the functional features promoting community invasibility may arise from the use of mechanistic traits, like those associated with drought resistance, which have been seldom included in trait-based studies. Here, we tested for the functional strategies of native and invasive assemblage (i.e., environmental filtering hypothesis vs. niche divergence), and we assessed how the functional space determined by native species could influence community invasibility at the edges of a resource availability gradient. Our results showed that invasive species pools need to have a certain degree of differentiation in order to persist in highly invaded communities, suggesting that functional niche divergence may foster community invasibility. In addition, resident native communities more susceptible to invasion are those which, on average, have higher resource acquisition capacity, and lower drought resistance coupled with an apparently reduced water-use efficiency. We advocate the use of a mechanistic perspective in future research to comprehensively understand invasion dynamics, providing also new insights on the factors underlying community invasibility in different ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Enough Is Enough? Searching for the Optimal Sample Size to Monitor European Habitats: A Case Study from Coastal Sand Dunes
Diversity 2020, 12(4), 138; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12040138 - 02 Apr 2020
Cited by 2
Abstract
A robust survey method that samples the main characteristics of plant assemblages is needed to assess the conservation status of European habitat in the Natura 2000 network. A measure of variability, called pseudo-multivariate dissimilarity-based standard error (MultSE), was recently proposed for assessing sample-size [...] Read more.
A robust survey method that samples the main characteristics of plant assemblages is needed to assess the conservation status of European habitat in the Natura 2000 network. A measure of variability, called pseudo-multivariate dissimilarity-based standard error (MultSE), was recently proposed for assessing sample-size adequacy in ecological communities. Here, we used it on coastal sand dune systems in three Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) in Tuscany. Our aim was to assess the minimum number of replicates necessary to adequately characterize sand dune environments in terms of differences between habitats and SACs, after a preliminary baseline assessment of plant diversity. Analysis of α and β diversity indicated that especially between habitats the three SACs protect different plant communities. The study of the MultSE profiles showed that the minimum number of replicates needed to assess differences among habitats varied between 10 and 25 plots. Two-way PERMANOVA and SIMPER analysis on the full and reduced datasets confirmed that SACs and habitats host different plant communities, and that the contribution of the target species remained unchanged even with a reduced sample size. The proposed methodological approach can be used to develop cost-effective monitoring programs and it can be useful for plant ecologists and biodiversity managers for assessing ecosystem health and changes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Show Figures

Figure 1

Open AccessArticle
Disentangling the Effects of Disturbance from Those of Dominant Tall Grass Features in Driving the Functional Variation of Restored Grassland in a Sub-Mediterranean Context
Diversity 2020, 12(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/d12010011 - 24 Dec 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Land abandonment in sub-Mediterranean grasslands causes the spread of tall-grasses, affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Mowing allows the recovery of the coenological composition after invasion, but the mechanisms acting at the fine-scale are poorly investigated. Since 2010 in the Central Apennines, we fenced [...] Read more.
Land abandonment in sub-Mediterranean grasslands causes the spread of tall-grasses, affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Mowing allows the recovery of the coenological composition after invasion, but the mechanisms acting at the fine-scale are poorly investigated. Since 2010 in the Central Apennines, we fenced a grassland invaded by Brachypodium rupestre, divided it into two areas, half of each was mowed biyearly and half remained unmown. In 2017 we selected ten 20 × 20 cm experimental units per half-area, collecting data on species occurrences, plant traits, B. rupestre height and phytomass. We used generalized linear mixed-effect modelling to disentangle the role of mowing from the impact of B. rupestre features in driving the community functional variations. Mowing was the main driver in the recovery process, acting as an abiotic filter (enhancement of tolerance-avoidance strategies). Furthermore, the reduction of weaker competitor exclusion processes fostered the increase of functional variation between coexisting species. Both drivers acted on different plant traits (e.g., mowing on life span, vegetative propagation types and plant height, mowing and B. rupestre features on space occupation types, seed mass and leaf anatomy), generally enhancing the extent of functional strategies related to resource acquisition and storage, reproduction, space occupation and temporal niche exploitation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant Community Ecology: From Theory to Practice)
Back to TopTop