The influence of spatial heterogeneity on regeneration by seed in a limestone grassland
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The spatial distribution of seedlings in fertilized and non‐fertilized grassland patches (1 m x 2 m) was examined in alvar vegetation on the island of Öland, Sweden. We established whether variation in seedling distribution in grassland patches reflects the distribution of conspecific adults. We also established the significance of microsite turf attributes for prediction of seedling distribution at a small scale (10 cm x 10 cm), and the significance of conspecific adults abundance, assemblage of adult species and cover of lichens, mosses, litter and bare ground. Our results indicate that fertilization reduces the importance of regeneration by seed of perennial species and enhances seedling recruitment of winter annuals and biennials. At the patch scale, enrichment does not affect species richness. Community patchiness contributes to the maintenance of diversity by providing a variety of environments with differential regeneration of the component species. Cover of lichens, mosses, litter and bare ground, accounts, in part, for the spatial variation in seedling numbers of certain species. The strong association of seedlings of some species with conspecific adults indicates that limitations in dispersal and/or the occurrence of a more suitable environment for emergence and/or establishment close to conspecific adult plants are likely to constrain the spatial distribution of new individuals in many cases. For other species, the lack of association of seedling densities with the cover of their conspecific adults, suggests that long‐distance dispersal or a long‐lived seed bank can play a role in counteracting the effect of short‐distance dispersal.