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Plant traits enabling survival in Mediterranean badlands in northeastern Spain suffering from soil erosion

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Abstract:

Question: This study analysed the effect of severe soil erosion on species composition of plant communities by favouring species showing certain growth forms, root-sprouting and clonal growth abilities.

Location: The study area was located between the middle Ebro Valley and the Pre-Pyrenees (northeastern Spain).

Methods: Root-sprouting and shoot-rooting abilities, clonal reproduction and growth form were assessed for the 123 most common plant species from eroded lands in the study area. We obtained 260 vegetation relevés in three different substrata (gypsum outcrops, Miocene clays and Eocene marls) on areas with different degrees of soil erosion. The frequency of every plant trait in each relevé was estimated according to species presence. The effect of soil erosion on the frequency of plant attributes was assessed by correlation analyses.

Results: Bipolar, non-clonal plants and annual species decreased their frequency with increasing soil erosion in the three substrata analyzed, whereas root-sprouters and woody plants (mostly sub-shrubs) increased their frequency in most of the substrata analysed.

Conclusions: Woody sub-shrubs, root-sprouters and clonal species are favoured in eroded lands in NE Spain. Bipolar species and annual plants might not be plastic enough to survive the high stress and frequent disturbances prevailing in such eroded areas.

Keywords: CLAY; CLONALITY; ERODED PASTURE; FUNCTIONAL STRATEGY; GROWTH FORM; GYPSUM; MARL; PLANT LIFE HISTORY; ROOT-SPROUT; SHOOT-BORNE ROOT

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3170/2008-8-18382

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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