Schellenberger Costa, David and Classen, Alice and Ferger, Stefan and Helbig-Bonitz, Maria and Peters, Marcell and Böhning-Gaese, Katrin and Steffan-Dewenter, Ingolf and Kleyer, Michael (2017) Relationships between abiotic environment, plant functional traits, and animal body size at Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. PLoS one, 12 (3). e0174157. ISSN 1932-6203

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The effect-response framework states that plant functional traits link the abiotic environment to ecosystem functioning. One ecosystem property is the body size of the animals living in the system, which is assumed to depend on temperature or resource availability, among others. For primary consumers, resource availability may directly be related to plant traits, while for secondary consumers the relationship is indirect. We used plant traits to describe resource availability along an elevational gradient on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Using structural equation models, we determined the response of plant traits to changes in precipitation, temperature and disturbance with and assessed whether abiotic conditions or community-weighted means of plant traits are stronger predictors of the mean size of bees, moths, frugivorous birds, and insectivorous birds. Traits indicating tissue density and nutrient content strongly responded to variations in precipitation, temperature and disturbance. They had direct effects on pollination and fruit traits. However, the average body sizes of the animal groups considered could only be explained by temperature and habitat structure, not by plant traits. Our results demonstrate a strong link between traits and the abiotic environment, but suggest that temperature is the most relevant predictor of mean animal body size. Community-weighted means of plant traits and body sizes appear unsuitable to capture the complexity of plant-animal interactions.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Publiziert mit Hilfe des DFG-geförderten Open Access-Publikationsfonds der Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg.
Subjects: Science and mathematics > Life sciences, biology
Divisions: Faculty of Mathematics and Science > Department of Biology and Environmental Sciences (IBU)
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2017 11:45
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2017 11:42
URN: urn:nbn:de:gbv:715-oops-34175
DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0174157

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