Title Dispersal and microsite limitation of a rare alpine plant
Author/s Frei ES, Scheepens JF, Stöcklin J
Year 2012
Journal Plant Ecology 213:395-406
Abstract Knowledge on the limitation of plant species’ distributions is important for preserving alpine biodiversity, particularly when the loss of alpine habitats because of global warming or land use changes is faster than colonization of new habitats. We investigated the potential of the rare alpine plant Campanula thyrsoides L. to colonize grassland sites of different suitability on a small mountain plateau in the Swiss Alps. A total of 15 experimental sites were selected according to their differences in habitat suitability for adult C. thyrsoides, which was measured by the Beals index. At each site we applied a disturbance treatment, added seeds at different densi- ties and monitored the survival of seedlings over two consecutive years. The number of surviving seedlings was not positively related to habitat suitability for adult C. thyrsoides. Furthermore, C. thyrsoides appears to be strongly dispersal limited at the regional scale because seed addition to unoccupied habitats resulted in successful germination and survival of seedlings. Since an increase of seed density in already occupied sites did not affect the number of seedlings, we suggest that C. thyrsoides is microsite limited at the local scale. Microsite limitation is supported by the result that seedling survival of the species was enhanced in vegetation gaps created by disturbance. We conclude that C. thyrsoides may become endangered in the future if environmental changes cause local extinction of populations. An appropriate management, such as a disturbance regime for enhancing recruitment in existing populations, may ensure the long-term sur- vival of this rare alpine plant species.
Keywords Campanula thyrsoides, Dispersal limitation, Disturbance, Habitat suitability, Microsite limitation, Seed sowing experiment
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