Overdispersed spatial patterning of dominant bunchgrasses in southeastern pine savannas

Katherine A. Hovanes, Louisiana State University
Kyle E. Harms, Louisiana State University
Paul R. Gagnon, Murray State University Murray
Jonathan A. Myers, Washington University in St. Louis
Bret D. Elderd, Louisiana State University


© 2018 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. Spatial patterning is a key natural history attribute of sessile organisms that frequently emerges from and dictates potential for interactions among organisms. We tested whether bunchgrasses, the dominant plant functional group in longleaf pine savanna groundcover communities, are nonrandomly patterned by characterizing the spatial dispersion of three bunchgrass species across six sites in Louisiana and Florida. We mapped bunchgrass tussocks of >5.0 cm basal diameter in three 3×3_m plots at each site. We modeled tussocks as two-dimensional objects to analyze their spatial relationships while preserving sizes and shapes of individual tussocks. Tussocks were overdispersed (more regularly spaced than random) for all species and sites at the local interaction scale (<0.3 m). This general pattern likely arises from a tussock-centered, distance-dependent mechanism, for example, intertussock competition. Nonrandomspatial patterns of dominant species have implications for community assembly and ecosystem function in tussock-dominated grasslands and savannas, including those characterized by extreme biodiversity.