Journal of Ecology is pleased to welcome Pierre Mariotte as a new Associate Editor with special responsibility for overseeing this blog. Pierre is a Swiss NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Sydney, Australia where he works on community ecology particularly plant-soil interactions and feedbacks. He has published several papers in the Journal including Kardol et al. (2013), Thébault et al. (2014) and Mariotte et al. (2013). The latter was Highly Commended for the BES Young Investigator Award 2013. More about Pierre is available through his personal blog. We look forward to working with Pierre and developing further this blog. By way of introduction, Pierre’s first contribution to the JEcol blog is a contribution to our Ecological Inspiration series.
Ecological Inspirations: Grime’s classification of dominant, subordinate and transient plant species
Nature has always captivated me, and as an ecologist I became fascinated by the diversity of living organisms and the related diversity of functions within ecosystems. One of the first ecological articles that I read was “Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects” by JP Grime published in Journal of Ecology in 1998, which truly became my ecological inspiration.
While many studies pointed out the role of plant diversity in ecosystem functioning, the underlying mechanisms to explain these effects were unclear. Building upon years of studies (Whittaker 1965, Grime 1973), Grime shed greater light on the relationship between plant diversity and ecosystem properties by classifying component species into three functional groups (referred as the DST classification): dominants with immediate effects on ecosystem properties, subordinates with filter effects, and transients with founder effects. The DST classification, which offers theoretical basis to link vegetation structure and functions (Gibson, Ely & Collins 1999), is robust and well-adapted to a large range of ecosystems.
Grime’s mass ratio theory, which suggests that immediate controls of ecosystem properties are determined by the traits of dominant species, was the inspiration for many highly cited studies published in Journal of Ecology (Mokany, Ash & Roxburgh 2008; Lavorel et al. 2011). But Grime also defined subordinate species for the first time and mentioned their potential filtering effects. He also asked in his paper for more carefully designed experiments to test subordinates’ effects in plant communities. Various studies subsequently demonstrated the crucial functions of subordinate species, especially under climate change (Richardson et al. 2002), including my own research (Mariotte et al. 2013; Mariotte 2014).
Grime’s DST classification provided a framework to study the benefits of plant diversity on ecosystems, which supported many years of research highlighting the role of dominant species in driving ecosystem functions and the importance of subordinate species in maintaining these functions under perturbations. One finding of Grime’s review is that functional diversity matters more than species richness per se. Indeed, the role of functional diversity (immediate and filter effects) as emphasised by Grime clarifies the observed relationship between species diversity and ecosystem functioning. Grime’s classification also inspired recent advances in plant functional traits (Lavorel et al. 2011) and plant-soil interactions research (Mariotte 2014), yielding valuable knowledge with broad implications for conserving/restoring ecosystems, providing sustainable agricultural practices and mediating climate change impacts.
Grime’s paper is one of the most influential articles published in Journal of Ecology (over 600 citations and counting) and will long continue to inspire research aiming at understanding the effects of functional diversity on ecosystem functioning.
References and more information:
Gibson, D.J., Ely, J.S. & Collins, S.L. (1999) The core-satellite species hypothesis provides a theoretical basis for Grime’s classification of dominant, subordinate, and transient species. Journal of Ecology 87, 1064-1067.
Grime, J.P. (1973) Competitive exclusion in herbaceous vegetation. Nature, 242, 344-347.
Grime, J.P. (1998) Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects. Journal of Ecology, 86, 902–906.
Lavorel, S., Grigulis, K., Lamarque, P., Colace, M.-P., Garden, D., Girel, J., Pellet, G. & Douzet, R. (2011) Using plant functional traits to understand the landscape distribution of multiple ecosystem services. Journal of Ecology, 99, 135-147.
Mariotte, P. (2014) Do subordinate species punch above their weight? Evidence from above- and below-ground. New Phytologist, 203, 16-21.
Mariotte, P., Vandenberghe, C., Hagedorn, F., Kardol, P. & Buttler, A. (2013) Subordinate species enhance community insurance to drought in semi-natural grassland ecosystems. Journal of Ecology 101, 763-773.
Mokany, K., Ash, J. & Roxburgh, S. (2008) Functional identity is more important than diversity in influencing ecosystem processes in a temperate native grassland. Journal of Ecology, 96, 884-893.
Richardson, S.J., Press, M.C., Parsons, A.N. & Hartley, S.E. (2002) How do nutrients and warming impact on plant communities and their insect herbivores? A 9-year study from a sub-arctic heath. Journal of Ecology, 90, 544–556.
Whittaker, R.H. (1965) Dominance and diversity in land plant communities. Science, 147, 250-260.