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Plant functional traits are correlated with species persistence in the herb layer of old-growth beech forests

Campetella, G., Chelli, S., Simonetti, E., Damiani, C., Bartha, S., Wellstein, C., Giorgini, D., Puletti, N., Mucina, L., Cervellini, M. and Canullo, R. (2020) Plant functional traits are correlated with species persistence in the herb layer of old-growth beech forests. Scientific Reports, 10 (1). Art. 10.

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This paper explores which traits are correlated with fine-scale (0.25 m2) species persistence patterns in the herb layer of old-growth forests. Four old-growth beech forests representing different climatic contexts (presence or absence of summer drought period) were selected along a north–south gradient in Italy. Eight surveys were conducted in each of the sites during the period spanning 1999–2011. We found that fine-scale species persistence was correlated with different sets of plant functional traits, depending on local ecological context. Seed mass was found to be as important for the fine-scale species persistence in the northern sites, while clonal and bud-bank traits were markedly correlated with the southern sites characterised by summer drought. Leaf traits appeared to correlate with species persistence in the drier and wetter sites. However, we found that different attributes, i.e. helomorphic vs scleromorphic leaves, were correlated to species persistence in the northernmost and southernmost sites, respectively. These differences appear to be dependent on local trait adaptation rather than plant phylogenetic history. Our findings suggest that the persistent species in the old-growth forests might adopt an acquisitive resource-use strategy (i.e. helomorphic leaves with high SLA) with higher seed mass in sites without summer drought, while under water-stressed conditions persistent species have a conservative resource-use strategy (i.e. scleromorphic leaves with low SLA) with an increased importance of clonal and resprouting ability.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2020 Springer Nature Limited
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