Plant community dynamics in a calcareous grassland under climate change manipulations

Marcelo Sternberg, Valerie K. Brown, Gregory J. Masters, Ian P. Clarke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigates the effects of field manipulations of local climate to determine the potential impact of climate change on plant community dynamics in a calcareous grassland. The experimental site is located in a grassland at the Wytham estate, Oxfordshire, UK. The one hectare study area is within a 10 ha abandoned arable field on Jurassic corallian limestone. Two climate change scenarios were used: warmer winters with increased summer rainfall and warmer winters with summer drought. Plant cover and species richness were significantly increased in plots receiving supplemented summer rainfall, while the amount of litter was significantly reduced. Litter formation was significantly increased by winter warming and drought. The responses of the plant community to the climate manipulations were related to the life-history attributes of the dominant species. Seedling recruitment was limited by microsite availability, which also varied in the different climate manipulations. The results are discussed in terms of successional dynamics. They suggest that warmer winters may delay succession, as gap formation in the sward will provide sites for colonisation of annuals, thereby enabling their persistence in the sward. Under wetter conditions during summer, perennial grasses tend to close the sward, thereby inhibiting the establishment of later successional species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-37
Number of pages9
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Life-history traits
  • Plant succession
  • Seedling recruitment
  • Warming
  • Water relations


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