The analysis of anatomical variations within annual rings of trees and shrubs has great potential for reconstructing past environmental conditions. However, detailed wood anatomical analysis has rarely been applied to long-term reconstructions mostly because of methodological constraints and time-consuming procedures of data collection. We developed a new technique to prepare long, 15–20 μm thick sections for wood anatomical analyses cut from fresh increment cores with a length of up to 40 cm. We used an improved version of the WSL core-microtome and tested the method by sectioning 400 cores from 6 conifer and 25 deciduous species. Standardly used staining and dehydration procedures were successfully applied. This simple, easily applicable and fast technique opens a vast field of possible research by allowing anatomical analysis of long tree-ring cores. In this way long and well-replicated chronologies of cell structures can be developed.

In: IAWA Journal

Only a few studies have examined responses of grassland functional diversity to management and major environmental gradients, in order to address the question of whether grassland use can promote functional divergence. For five grassland sites in Israel, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Mediterranean France, and the French Alps, where traditional grassland management is being abandoned, we quantified community-weighted means (CWM) and functional divergence (FDvg) for the three Leaf-Height-Seed (LHS) traits, individually and in combination. Responses of CWM and FDvg to land use were analyzed by mixed linear models with aridity, phosphorus, fertility, and the fractions of grasses and annuals as covariates.

Responses of community-weighted traits to land use were consistent with current knowledge. More intense management favored plants with more rapid resource acquisition (high Specific Leaf Area, or SLA), whereas abandonment or less intense grassland management increased the dominance by tall plants with more conservative strategies (low SLA). Seed weight did not respond to land use. For the three traits and their combination, functional divergence decreased in response to land use change overall. Detailed responses, however, varied depending on sites and especially their climate. At the two French sites, traditional site management promoted functional divergence within communities by suppressing dominance by large perennial tussocks, whereas at the two Mediterranean sites it is likely that the drier climate promoted a functionally diverse pool of species tolerant to grazing.

This study demonstrates how simultaneous analyses of variations in community-mean traits and functional divergence for a focused set of traits offer promising avenues to understand mechanisms of community response to environmental change.

In: Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution