Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Spatial and temporal dynamics of wildflower blooms in the Southern Appalachians

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Rose Graves
Scott M. Pearson
Monica G. Turner

Cultural ecosystem services i.e., non-material benefits received from nature, contribute substantially to nature-based economies in rural regions and may be especially impacted by shifts in land use. In regions experiencing exurban transitions, incomplete knowledge of the links between land-use patterns, biodiversity, and ecosystem services can lead to unintended losses of biodiversity-based cultural ecosystem services. We measured wildflower communities at 60 sites across a rural-to-urban gradient in the French Broad River Basin, North Carolina to establish the spatial-temporal distribution of wildflower blooms, which represent a biodiversity-based cultural ecosystem services (wildflower viewing). Few studies assess wildflower phenology at the full community-level and seldom examine flower communities from a resource availability and anthropogenic perspective. We asked: (1) what factors influence the distribution of wildflower blooms across the landscape? and (2) how do spatial patterns of a biodiversity-based cultural ecosystem service change within the spring to late-summer seasons? We recorded over 200 species flowering from April to August 2014. The number of species in flower across all sites averaged 17 (CV= 0.71) and exhibited strong seasonal and spatial variation, with total flower availability peaking during early summer. The abundance of wildflower blooms was highest at moister sites with lower tree basal area, longer growing seasons and lower precipitation. Number of species in flower declined over the season and with increasing building density. The spatial-temporal distribution of wildflower blooms provides insight into relationships between cultural ecosystem service provision and land use in exurbanizing landscapes.

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