Evolutionary responses to land use in eight common grassland plants

Völler, Eva; Bossdorf, Oliver; Prati, Daniel; Auge, Harald (2017). Evolutionary responses to land use in eight common grassland plants. Journal of Ecology, 105(5), pp. 1290-1297. Blackwell 10.1111/1365-2745.12746

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Land-use change is an important component of global environmental change and a major driver of current declines in biodiversity. Although there is increasing evidence that species can evolve rapidly in response to anthropogenic environmental change, comprehensive studies of the evolutionary consequences of land use are still fairly scarce, in particular such that consider multiple species, study many populations, or that discriminate between different aspects of land use. Here, we studied genetic change of key phenotypic traits in response to land use in eight common grassland species across 137 grassland sites covering a broad range of land-use types (mowing and/or grazing, with or without fertilization) and intensities in three regions of Germany. A common garden study revealed significant genetic differentiation in response to land-use intensification within all of the investigated species. Among the studied land-use processes, mowing appeared to have the strongest effect on the differentiation of plant phenotypes, with flowering phenology as the most responsive trait. However, there was substantial variation among species in the magnitude, sometimes also the direction of the observed population differentiation. Synthesis. Our study demonstrates that evolutionary responses of grassland plants to land-use change are a common phenomenon and widespread across a broad range of different species. These evolutionary changes are likely to impact biotic interactions, as well as the structure and functioning of communities and ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology

UniBE Contributor:

Bossdorf, Oliver and Prati, Daniel


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2017 16:10

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 18:46

Publisher DOI:






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