Grazing and light modify Silene latifolia responses to nutrients and future climate

PLoS One. 2022 Nov 8;17(11):e0276789. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0276789. eCollection 2022.

ABSTRACT

Altered climate, nutrient enrichment and changes in grazing patterns are important environmental and biotic changes in temperate grassland systems. Singly and in concert these factors can influence plant performance and traits, with consequences for species competitive ability, and thus for species coexistence, community composition and diversity. However, we lack experimental tests of the mechanisms, such as competition for light, driving plant performance and traits under nutrient enrichment, grazer exclusion and future climate. We used transplants of Silene latifolia, a widespread grassland forb in Europe, to study plant responses to interactions among climate, nutrients, grazing and light. We recorded transplant biomass, height, specific leaf area (SLA) and foliar carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) in full-factorial combinations of future climate treatment, fertilization, grazer exclusion and light addition via LED-lamps. Future climate and fertilization together increased transplant height but only in unlighted plots. Light addition increased SLA in ambient climate, and decreased C:N in unfertilized plots. Further, transplants had higher biomass in future climatic conditions when protected from grazers. In general, grazing had a strong negative effect on all measured variables regardless of added nutrients and light. Our results show that competition for light may lead to taller individuals and interacts with climate and nutrients to affect traits related to resource-use. Furthermore, our study suggests grazing may counteract the benefits of future climate on the biomass of species such as Silene latifolia. Consequently, grazers and light may be important modulators of individual plant performance and traits under nutrient enrichment and future climatic conditions.

PMID:36346799 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0276789

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