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Title: Foredune‐forming grass and plant diversity show contrasting responses along the southeastern United States coast after hurricane disturbance
Abstract Aims

Latitudinal gradients in plant communities are well studied, yet how these fundamental ecological patterns influence ecosystem recovery after extreme weather events remains largely unknown. In coastal foredunes, we investigated how the cover of a key dune‐building grass (Uniola paniculata), vegetation diversity and vegetation cover vary along a short latitudinal gradient during recovery from hurricane disturbance.


Southeastern USA.


We surveyed 24 sites, from central Florida to north Georgia (>400 km), four times over 18 months. General linear mixed‐effect models were used to unravel patterns of vegetation responses across latitude.


Vegetation properties showed countervailing patterns across the latitudinal gradient. While vegetation richness, functional diversity and total cover generally declined,Uniolacover increased with increasing latitude. Further, the latitude–richness relationship strengthened while the latitude–functional diversity relationship was invariant with increasing time since the hurricane disturbance. Meanwhile, the latitude–Uniolaassociation was seasonally dependent and strongest in the summer. Latitude also influenced diversity–cover relationships: vegetation cover was positively related to species richness at lower latitudes, while it was positively associated with functional diversity only at northern sites. We found no relationship between species richness or functional diversity and increases in cover between time steps; however, recruitment of new species and functional groups was associated with increases in vegetation cover between time steps at northern sites.


Our study highlights the temporal dynamism and contrasting patterns along latitudinal gradients exhibited by key engineering species and overall plant diversity in foredunes — a crucial line of coastal protection — exposed to hurricane disturbances. These results suggest a need for greater integration of latitudinal and diversity effects into our understanding of coastal dune resilience. They also highlight the potential benefits of enhancing dune plant biodiversity, particularly in areas where the dune‐building grasses that are classically employed in restoration (e.g.,Uniola) are unfavoured, to accelerate the re‐establishment of well‐vegetated dunes.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Vegetation Science
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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