Publication details

Ecological niches of nitrogen-fixers and parasitic plants in Europe

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Year of publication 2022
Type Conference abstract
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Description Nitrogen-fixers and parasitic plants are examples of plant functional groups displaying specialised ecological strategies. Thanks to those, they may escape ecological constraints associated with deficiency of some resources. Both specialised groups also exert multiple effects on the communities and the ecosystems they inhabit. The community ecology of these functional groups and their ecosystem effects have been studied rather intensely. However, their ecological niches and habitat preferences have not yet been synthesised on the continental scale. In this study we firstly identified the ecological niches of both nitrogen-fixers and parasitic plants in relation to climatic gradients. To define the niches (habitat suitability models) we used climatic variables deriving from high-resolution climate models (CHELSA Bioclim) based on the plot geographical coordinates, and Ellenberg-like indicator values deriving from plot vegetation composition. Secondly, we explored the geographical ranges of the particular species and the habitat types, where they occur. We classified all vegetation plots into EUNIS habitat types using the Expert System-approach and compared habitat specialisation of the investigated plant groups. For our analysis we used data of 1,100,421 vegetation-plots from the most comprehensive database recently available, the European Vegetation Archive (EVA). Nitrogen-fixers, mainly represented by the taxa of legumes, show generally broad ecological niches, while some parasitic plants tend to be rather specific. The distribution center of nitrogen fixers is located in the Mediterranean region of Europe. Parasitic plants do not show such a clear geographical pattern, with the exception of holoparasites which are considerably less frequent in cold climates. We believe our overview of ecological niches and habitat preferences of nitrogen-fixers and parasitic plants is an important contribution not only to the knowledge of their individual ecology, but also in the context of their community ecology and evolution.
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