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Mountain grasslands dynamics : integrating phenotypic plasticity in a new agent-based model

Abstract : Mountain grasslands provide numerous ecosystem services that are likely to be impacted by global change. Plant functional traits hold great promise to succinctly characterise plant community response to changing environmental conditions and its effect on associated services; with growing evidence of the importance of intra-specific trait variability. I propose here a novel agent-based model, MountGrass, that combines the modelling of species rich grassland communities with phenotypic plasticity. These two key components are integrated via allocation trade-offs based on established empirical patterns of strategic differentiation in resource-use.With MountGrass, I explored the impact of phenotypic plasticity on individual plant growth and on main properties of grassland communities. At the individual level, the parametrised model revealed a strong impact of plasticity on growth and species’ fundamental niches, with potentially large impacts on community properties. These effects are explained by the convergence of species’ strategies and the reduction of the sensitivity to variable conditions. At the community level, simulations confirmed the strong effect of plastic allocation on community structure and species richness. These effects are driven by the cumulative effect of a reduction of both abiotic filtering and fitness differences between species. However, no clear effect on the dominant strategy or productivity could be detected.Going further, the robustness of these findings and other patterns of community dynamics should be analysed with alternative or extended implementations of MountGrass. In sum, this work opens a door towards a better integration and understanding of the role of the intra-specific variability in complex plant community dynamics.
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Clément Viguier. Mountain grasslands dynamics : integrating phenotypic plasticity in a new agent-based model. Biodiversity and Ecology. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018GREAV057⟩. ⟨tel-02103244⟩

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