Chozas, S., Correia, O., Santos, A.M.C. & Hortal, J. (2017) Trait dynamics of Mediterranean xerophytic shrub communities growing on stabilised inland dunes respond to nutrient and aridity gradients. Plant Ecology & Diversity 10, 115-126. doi:10.1080/17550874.2017.1345997

Background Understanding the processes that determine community assembly and their dynamics is a central issue in ecology. The analysis of functional diversity can improve our understanding of these dynamics by identifying community assembly processes.

Aims We studied the effect of environment–community covariations on both functional diversity and functional structure of xerophytic shrub communities for inferring the community assembly processes shaping this vegetation type.

Methods Functional diversity was quantified using (1) community-weighted mean of the studied traits, (2) functional groups, defined using Ward’s hierarchical agglomerative clustering method and (3) Rao’s quadratic entropy. Relationships between functional diversity and environmental gradients were identified by Spearman correlations and modelled using generalised additive models.

Results Variations in community composition and functional diversity correlated with soil nutrient availability and aridity. Increasing nutrient availability resulted in both greater average plant height and higher abundance of plants with green photosynthetic organ colour, whereas the abundance of nanophanerophytes increases with aridity.

Conclusions The species composition and trait structure of the studied Mediterranean xerophytic shrub communities varies along nutrient and aridity gradients. This supports the importance of environmental filters for the local assembly and dynamics of these inland dune communities.