Intercambio gaseoso en dos especies de plantas alto andinas de Chile central: efecto de la asociación a plantas en cojín [Gas exchange in two high andean plant species of central Chile: effect of the association with cushion plants]

Ecologia Austral 06/2005; 15(1):49-58.
Source: OAI

ABSTRACT It has been proposed that on stressful environments as high mountain habitats, interactions between species of plants would tend to be of the positive type, increasing in intensity and frequency when resources in the environment become more limited. In this work, we studied the microclimatic modifications produced by cushions of Laretia acaulis species and its effects on the physiological performance of two associated species of the high mountain community located at 2800 m.a.s.l. in Los Andes of central Chile: Taraxacum officinale and Euphorbia collina, which frequently grow within and outside the cushions respectively. Gas exchange measures were taken in order to assess the effects caused by the microclimatic modifications done by cushions plants. We demonstrated that individuals of T. officinale that grow within cushions displayed, unlike their co-specifics in open spaces, a greater net photosynthesis rate. E. collina did not show differences in the rate of net photosynthesis between individuals present within and outside cushions. Only T. officinale displayed a greater rate of photosynthesis in the microsite where it is frequently distributed (within cushions). The effect of association with a nurse (e.g. cushion plants) for large biomass species, such as E. collina, could be less beneficial due to the competition for resources and space; this would explain why E. collina is more frequently found in open spaces.

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    ABSTRACT: Aim To integrate the effects of ecosystem engineers (organisms that create, maintain or destroy habitat for other species) sharing the same archetype on species diversity, and assess whether different engineer species have generalized or idiosyncratic effects across environmentally similar ecosystems. Location High-Andean habitats of Chile and Argentina, from 23 degrees S to 41 degrees S. Methods We measured and compared the effects of eight alpine plants with cushion growth-form on species richness, species diversity (measured as the Shannon-Wiener index) and evenness of vascular plant assemblages across four high-Andean ecosystems of Chile and Argentina. Results The presence of cushion plants always increased the species richness, diversity (measured as the Shannon-Wiener index) and evenness of high-Andean plant assemblages. However, while the presence of different cushion species within the same ecosystem controlled species diversity in the same way, these effects varied between cushion species from different ecosystems. Main conclusions Results consistently supported the idea that increases in habitat complexity due to the presence of ecosystem engineers, in this case cushion plants, would lead to higher community diversity. Results also indicate that effects of the presence of different cushion species within the same ecosystem could be generalized, while the effects of cushion species from different ecosystems should be considered idiosyncratic.
    Journal of Biogeography 02/2006; 33(2):304-313. · 4.86 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Comparative and integrative tools are of fundamental value in ecology for understanding outcomes of biological processes, and making generalizations and predictions. Although ecosystem engineering has been shown to play a fundamental role in community organization, there are no standardized methods to measure such effects. We present a framework and methodology for assessing the impact of physical ecosystem engineers on three general features of community organization: (1) species richness and composition, (2) stability of richness over time, and (3) dominance patterns of species assemblages. We then apply the framework and methodology to assess the effects of the cushion plant Azorella monantha on high-Andean plant communities on two mountaintops. Substrate temperatures, soil moisture and the availability of mineral nutrient resources were compared between A. monantha and surrounding open areas to ascertain whether cushions altered abiotic environmental conditions, while community analysis assessed changes in species richness, composition and abundances at patch and landscape levels. Cushions thermally buffered temperature extremes and increased soil moisture, but had no detectable effect on soil mineral nutrients. Cushion habitat was not more species rich than surrounding areas, but cushions added new species into the community, altering species composition and markedly enhancing landscape-level richness. Cushions also showed potential for stabilizing species richness over time, and changed patterns of species dominance. Findings were consistent across mountaintops. We evaluate the general utility of the framework and call for its application in other systems as a means to generate comparative data sets for assessing the general effects of ecosystem engineers on community organization.
    Oikos 11/2006; 115(2):369-385. · 3.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Physical ecosystem engineering is the process by which some species change the distribution of materials and energy in ecosystems. Although several studies have shown that this process is a driver of local species diversity, the current challenge is predicting when and where ecosystem engineering will have large or small impacts on communities, while also explaining why impacts vary in magnitude across engineer species and environments. This study addresses this issue and proposes a series of predictions for these effects at the three spatial scales (the patch, the habitat and the landscape) along environmental gradients of physical stress. The integrative prediction of this study was that the difference in species diversity between engineered and unmodified situations (patches, habitats or landscapes) will increase as the difference in physical stress between engineered and unmodified patches becomes larger. To test the prediction, the effects of two well known high-Andean ecosystem engineers, the cushion plants Azorella madreporica and Laretia acaulis, were assessed on plant species richness in central Chile. The results support the main prediction, showing that ecosystem engineers have negative effects on species diversity at sites when the environmental modifications they perform increase physical stress for other species, while they have positive effects at sites where these habitat changes mitigate physical stress. Then, the effects of the ecosystem engineers on species diversity seem to depend on the environmental context, where larger environmental modifications are reflected in greater impacts, either positive or negative, on species diversity.
    Acta Oecologica 02/2010; 36(1):46-54. · 1.62 Impact Factor

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