Increasing ecological multifunctionality during early plant succession

Susanne Winter, Markus Klemens Zaplata, Michael Rzanny, Wolfgang Schaaf, Anton Fischer, Werner Ulrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Ecological multifunctionality quantifies the functional performance of various important plant traits and increases with growing structural habitat heterogeneity, number of plant functional traits, and species richness. However, the successional changes in multifunctionality have not been traced so far. We use quantitative plant samples of 1 m2 plots from the first 6 years of initial vegetation dynamics in a German created catchment to infer the temporal changes in plant functional trait space and multifunctionality. Multifunctionality at the plot level was in all study years lower than expected from a random sample of the local pool of potential colonizers and was lowest at intermediate states of succession. In each year species containing a specific set of traits occurred with limited but focused functionality. The observed average low degree of multifunctionality contrasts with recent models predicting a tendency towards maximum multifunctionality during plant community development. However, variability in multifunctionality among plots increased during succession and the respective multifunctionality distribution among plots was increasingly right skewed indicating an excess of plots with relatively high multifunctionality. This relative excess of plots with high multifunctionality might act as an important trigger of community development paving the way for new species and functions to become established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-509
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - 15 May 2019


  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental niche
  • Functional traits
  • Limiting similarity
  • Multifunctionality
  • Primary succession


Dive into the research topics of 'Increasing ecological multifunctionality during early plant succession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this