Chollet et al._Ecology_PR2014Chollet S., Rambal S., Fayolle A., Hubert D., Foulquié D., Garnier E.

[2014] Combined effects of climate, resource availability, and plant traits on biomass produced in a Mediterranean rangeland. Ecology, 95(3), 737–748

Biomass production in grasslands, a key component of food provision for domestic herbivores, is known to depend on climate, resource availability, and on the functional characteristics of communities. However, the combined effects of these different factors remain largely unknown. The aim of the present study was to unravel the causes of variations in the standing biomass of plant communities using a long-term experiment conducted in a Mediterranean rangeland of Southern France. Two management regimes, sheep grazing and grazing associated with mineral fertilization, were applied to different areas of the study site over the past 25 years. Abiotic (temperature, available water, nutrients) and biotic (components of the functional structure communities) factors were considered to explain interannual and spatial variations in standing biomass in these rangelands. Standing biomass was highly predictable, with the best model explaining ;80% of variations in the amount of biomass produced, but the variation explained by abiotic and biotic factors was dependent on the season and on the management regime. Abiotic factors were found to have comparable effects in both management regimes: The amount of biomass produced in the spring was limited by cold temperatures, while it was limited by water availability and high temperatures in the summer. In the fertilized community, the progressive change in the functional structure of the communities had significant effects on the amount of biomass produced: the dominance of few productive species which were functionally close led to higher peak standing biomass in spring.

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