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  1. Abstract Questions

    Plant–plant interactions are key processes that strongly affect the survival, growth and reproduction of individuals in plant communities. In grasslands, the micro‐environment generated under the canopy of shrubs could differentially affect co‐occurring species with different abiotic requirements. In a C3/C4grassland with scattered shrubs, we asked the following questions: (a) Does the aerial effect, the below‐ground effect, and the net effect of shrubs affect the vegetative and reproductive biomass, the number of tillers, the biomass allocation, and the leaf elongation rate of grasses? and (b) Do these effects differ between C3and C4grasses?

    Location

    Temperate sub‐humid grassland of Uruguay.

    Methods

    We planted one C3and two C4grasses under a shrub canopy and in adjacent open sites. Half of the grasses were planted with a fabric bag to reduce root competition with the shrub. We measured leaf elongation rate, the number of tillers produced and the biomass of the grasses in every treatment. We also measured photosynthetic photon flux density (PPFD), air temperature and wind speed under shrub canopies and in adjacent open sites.

    Results

    Root biomass, aerial biomass and reproductive biomass, the number of tillers and the leaf elongation rate of the C4grasses were negatively affected by the reduction in radiation and probably by below‐ground competition with the shrub. On the other hand, the leaf elongation rate of the C3grasses was positively affected by the shrub canopy.PPFD, air temperature and wind speed were lower under shrubs than in adjacent open sites.

    Conclusions

    Our results show the interplay between plant interactions and photosynthetic metabolism on the vegetative and reproductive performance of grasses. The micro‐environmental conditions generated below shrub canopies create a more appropriate site for the growth of C3than for C4grasses. These results show that shrubs may differentially affect co‐occurring species with different abiotic requirements.

     
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  2. Abstract

    Here, we evaluate the ecosystem functioning and the ecosystems services supply of different vegetation types (grasslands, shrublands and woodlands) under contrasting management regimes by comparing a protected area with the surrounding landscape, which has been subjected to human disturbance in the Eastern Hills of Uruguay. We propose, based on functional attributes and vegetation physiognomy, a State and Transition Model for the dynamics of the grassland–woodland mosaic. We used remote sensing techniques to: (i) develop a land‐cover map of the study area based on supervised Landsat imagery classification, and (ii) compare attributes of the ecosystem functioning (productivity and seasonality) and service supply derived from the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) images provided by the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor. The land‐cover map showed that grasslands and shrublands were the most extensive land covers in the study area. These vegetation types presented higher productivity, seasonality and ecosystem service supply, outside the protected area than inside it. On the other hand, woodlands showed higher productivity, ecosystem service supply and lower seasonality inside the protected area than outside of it. Two axes represented the grassland–woodland mosaic dynamic: (i) the mean annual and (ii) the intra‐annual coefficient of variation of the NDVI. Our results highlight that conservation of grasslands, shrublands and woodlands require different management strategies based on particular disturbance regimes like moderate grazing and controlled burns. Moderate disturbances may help to preserve ecosystem services provisioning in grasslands and shrublands. On the contrary, woodland conservation requires a more rigorous regime of protection against disturbances.

     
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