Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.759634
Title: Using the plant trait-based approach to study temperate grassland ecology and restoration
Author: Hodge, Josh
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2016
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Abstract:
Grasslands are considered to be the most endangered terrestrial ecosystem in the world. In the United Kingdom, substantial losses in unimproved grasslands and the abandonment of traditional grazing has resulted in the decline of ecosystem services, such as pollination. A plant trait-based approach was conducted to study the community ecology and restoration of temperate grasslands, with a focus on the convergence/divergence patterns in response to environmental and management factors, and how these scale to the provision of ecosystem processes and services –biomass production and livestock. The role of seven plant traits, obtained from the TRY-database, was investigated using the botanical data of the National Vegetation Classification, the Park Grass Experiment and the North Wyke Farm Platform. Trait-based analyses were conducted on the latter two to investigate the provision of biomass production and livestock production. A microcosm experiment was conducted to test the effects of agricultural soil legacies and restoration seed mixture on the reassembly of grassland communities, and their associated functional structure and composition. It was found that the seven traits investigated were independent and countered the conceptualisation of ecological axes of specialisation and ecological strategies. The type of fertiliser used to improve grasslands was found to be a significant factor driving the convergence/divergence patterns of temperate grassland communities, together with grazing. Biomass production was found to be best explained by statistical models incorporating climate and environmental factors, community-weighted means and different facets of functional diversity. In essence, environmental and management pressures resembling intensely managed, especially with nitrate-based fertilisers, temperate grasslands and an exploitative community best supported greater amounts of high quality biomass. Livestock production was found to be best explained by the Functional Diversity Hypothesis: higher yields from cattle and sheep were found from diverged grazing pastures. A trade-off between cattle quantity and quality was also highlighted. Agricultural soil legacies were found to greatly hinder the progression towards vegetation and functional restoration targets, producing ruderal communities dominated by weak competitors and opportunistic weedy plant species. The work has important implication for the management and restoration of grassland communities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Natural Environment Research Council ; University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.759634  DOI: Not available
Keywords: QH Natural history
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