Sunday, September 5, 2010

Konza flowering phenology and functional groups.

In general, we have little understanding of how communities are assembled and the types of interactions that long-term generate evolutionary pressures, extinctions, and radiations. I'm pretty sure that whole-flora analyses are going to be keys to helping us understand these complex systems and there are precious few datasets on the scale necessary to do this.

With that in mind, here's the latest Konza phenology data by functional group. This is through Sept 1. The x-axis is day of year of first flowering for a species. Based on n = 408 species, which represents about 80% of the herbaceous grassland flora for Konza. We'll probably get another 10-20 species flowering before the year is up.

The y-axis is probability of flowering per day over the year for species of each functional group based on a "smooth" fit of the distribution data. Probabilities are standardized across functional groups. I broke out the Cyperaceae because it was the Carex that flowered early, not any C3 grasses. The C3 grasses that flower late in the year are generally woodland grasses.

This is terribly fascinating, though I'm not sure what the story is yet. For example, why are there C3 forbs that flower in August, but not any C3 grasses? And why are there C4 grasses that begin flowering in March, but not any C4 forbs? 

There certainly is an long-term competitive interactions that sort communities and drive selection. It's almost likely a rock-paper-scissors story. If rock (C4 grasses) then no scissors (C3 grasses), but if paper (grazers) then there are less rocks, so can have knife (C3 forbs).  

The C4 forbs are probably the most interesting story. If high temperatures favor C4 over C3, then why are there so many C3 forbs that are active during the hottest months rather than C4 forbs. Konza's C4 forbs are mostly Chamaesyche (Euphorbiaceae) and Amaranthus. Often they are prostrate forbs and/or weedy species keying in on disturbed areas. The C3 forbs that flower during this time are species like Salvia. Are there C4 forbs that fall into the same niches as these C3 forbs. Is there evolutionary constraint here that allows all the mid- to late-summer C3 forbs to persist? 

As we generate more large-scale trait datasets, more of these patterns should come clear. 

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