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Why grazing and soil matter for dry grassland diversity: New insights from multigroup structural equation modeling of micro-patterns

Abstract : Grazing is recognized as a major process driving the composition of plant communities in grasslands, mostly due to the heterogeneous removal of plant species and soil compaction that results in a mosaic of small patches called micro-patterns. To date, no study has investigated the differences in composition and functioning among these micro-patterns in grasslands in relation to grazing and soil environmental variables at the micro-local scale. In this study, we ask (1) To what extent are micro-patterns different from each other in terms of species composition, species richness, vegetation volume, evenness, and functioning? and (2) based on multigroup structural equation modeling, are those differences directly or indirectly driven by grazing and soil characteristics? We focused on three micro-patterns of the Mediterranean dry grassland of the Crau area, a protected area traditionally grazed in the South-East of France. From 70 plant community relevés carried out in three micro-patterns located in four sites with different soil and grazing characteristics, we performed univariate, multivariate analyses and applied structural equation modeling for the first time to this type of data. Our results show evidence of clear differences among micro-pattern patches in terms of species composition, vegetation volume, species richness, evenness, and functioning at the micro-local scale. These differences are maintained not only by direct and indirect effects of grazing but also by several soil variables such as fine granulometry. Biological crusts appeared mostly driven by these soil variables, whereas reference and edge communities are mostly the result of different levels of grazing pressure revealing three distinct functioning specific to each micro-pattern, all of them coexisting at the micro-local scale in the studied Mediterranean dry grassland. This first overview of the multiple effects of grazing and soil characteristics on communities in micro-patterns is discussed within the scope of the conservation of dry grasslands plant diversity.
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https://hal-cnrs.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03838894
Contributor : Thierry Dutoit Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, November 3, 2022 - 9:33:08 PM
Last modification on : Friday, December 2, 2022 - 4:50:12 PM

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Gabrielle Martin, Anouk Courtial, Alexandre Génin, Hervé Ramone, Thierry Dutoit. Why grazing and soil matter for dry grassland diversity: New insights from multigroup structural equation modeling of micro-patterns. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2022, 10, pp.879060. ⟨10.3389/fevo.2022.879060⟩. ⟨hal-03838894⟩

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