Abundance changes of marsh plant species over 40 years are better explained by niche position water level than functional traits
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd Understanding the factors that determine species’ resistance to environmental change is of utmost importance for biodiversity conservation. Here we investigated how the abundances of marshland species are determined by niche properties and functional traits. We re-surveyed 150 vegetation plots that were first surveyed in 1973 in order to explore species abundance changes over time. We found that the mean water level in the habitats of most studied species decreased significantly from 1973 to 2012. Nine of 17 target species were identified as abundance decreasing species and the other eight as abundance increasing species. The comparisons of seven plant characteristics (niche position water level, plant height, and five leaf traits) showed that the decreasing species had a significantly higher value of optimum water level and marginally significantly lower leaf N contents and specific leaf area (SLA) than those in increasing species. The stepwise regression analysis showed that optimum water level and leaf N were the best predictors of abundance changes of marsh plant species, as well as that the effect of optimum water level was stronger than that of leaf N. Our findings demonstrated that niche properties may be important for forecasting changes in wetland plant communities over time.