Plant Ecology and Evolution 155(1): 3-15, doi: 10.5091/plecevo.84458
How large-scale geographic factors affect the different dimensions of functional diversity: evidence from the beech forest herb layer (Apennines, Italy)
expand article infoFederico Tardella, Alessandro Bricca§, Maurizio Cutini|, Giampiero Ciaschetti, Annarita Frattaroli#, Bruno Paura¤, Gianfranco Pirone«, Nicola Postiglione», Andrea Scolastri˄, Tiziana Panichella», Arianna Ferrara˅, Andrea Catorci
‡ University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy§ chool of Biosciences and Veterinary Medicine, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy| University of Rome3, Roma, Italy¶ Ufficio Botanico, Parco Nazionale della Majella, Via Badia 28, Sulmona (L’Aquila), Italy# University of L'Aquila, L'Aquila, Italy¤ Department of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy« Department of Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy» School of Advanced Studies, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy˄ Department of Science, University of Roma Tre, Rome, Italy˅ School of Biosciences and Veterinary Medicine, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy
Open Access

Background and aims – The research aim was to investigate the relation between large-scale geographic factors and the functional structure of the herbaceous layer of calcareous beech forests in the Apennines, managed as high forest.
Material and methods – We selected 163 plots (20 × 20 m), ranging from Central to South Italy, using a random stratified sampling design. We correlated the effect sizes of traits’ community-weighted means, functional richness, evenness, divergence, dispersion, and Rao’s quadratic entropy, with the main axes of variation in species composition.
Key results – The geographical range played a weak role in shaping the species composition of the herbaceous layer. However, we found evidence of functional convergence towards the northern sectors of the study area, where traits linked to resource retention strategies and vegetative spread are filtered. We did not find any evidence of convergence northwards for leaf phenology and pollination types.
Conclusion – The increase of the intensity in the environmental stress was associated with a decrease of diversity for traits related to resource conservation strategies and vegetative propagation. On the contrary, the lower cold stress intensity southwards fostered a better niche partitioning, ensuring the coexistence of species with different modalities of resource acquisition and conservation.

Apennines, assembly rules, ecosystem functioning, Fagus sylvatica, functional diversity, habitat filtering, plant traits