Estimates of colonisation of plant species were made at three spatial scales in an old‐field on limestone subject to five experimental sheep grazing regimes. Local extinctions within grazing treatments were estimated in 1‐m2 permanent quadrats. These data were used to assess the effects of grazing treatment and spatial scale on the process of species change over a period of six years. Colonisation of the lOha field was virtually a random draw of plant species from adj acent vegetation, irrespective of plant life‐history traits including dispersal strategy. The effects of grazing on colonisation increased at smaller spatial scales. Colonisation rates changed little during the study on the 10 ha scale, but declined steeply with time at smaller scales. Colonisation rates of short‐lived species declined more than those of perennials, and short‐lived species were subject to erratic episodes of extinction which did not affect perennials. Short periods of grazing enhanced colonisation rates of all species, but extinction rates were the same as in ungrazed controls. Grazing for longer periods further enhanced colonisation rates, but also increased extinction rates. This produced diversity patterns consistent with a ‘hump‐backed model’, except that no grazing treatment was heavy enough to decrease diversity. Ungrazed controls had low species diversity, but areas grazed for longer periods were no more diverse after six years than those grazed for short periods.
Journal of Vegetation Science – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1991
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