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Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 12;8(1):13703. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-32078-x.

Both trait-neutrality and filtering effects are validated by the vegetation patterns detected in the functional recovery of sand grasslands.

Author information

1
MTA-DE Lendület Functional and Restoration Ecology Research Group, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary. molinia@gmail.com.
2
University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary. molinia@gmail.com.
3
University of Debrecen, Department of Botany, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary.
4
MTA-DE Lendület Functional and Restoration Ecology Research Group, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary.
5
University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary.
6
MTA Postdoctoral Research Program, MTA TKI, Nádor utca 7, Budapest, H-1051, Hungary.
7
MTA-DE Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Research Group, Egyetem tér 1, H-4032, Debrecen, Hungary.

Abstract

Neutral theory of species assembly means that species assembly is governed by stochastic dispersal processes and fluctuations in established populations. An alternative theory suggests that assembly is strongly determined by functional trait filtering governed by abiotic and biotic filtering selecting species from the local species pool. To test these assumptions, in the current paper we analysed vegetation changes in the first 12 years of succession after heavy goose grazing on acidic sand. With trait-based analyses using permanent plots we addressed the following hypotheses: (i) High fluctuations in the trait values are typical in the first years; later a temporally divergent change in the trait patterns of sites with different vertical position became characteristic. (ii) In the functional diversity of regenerative and vegetative traits we expected different temporal patterns. We confirmed the first hypothesis, as in the first few years most traits displayed high fluctuations with no clear patterns. Our findings weakly supported the second hypothesis; while there were distinct patterns detected in the functional richness of traits, functional divergence and evenness displayed no clear distinctive patterns. We can conclude that both trait neutrality and filtering effects operate in the vegetation changes of the first period of secondary succession.

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