Department of Ecosystem Studies, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.
On the temperate lowland plain of the lower Tumen River, agricultural development has converted most marshland into paddy fields. However, the locations of old paddy fields in the lowland temperate zone, where the vegetation structure is dominated by herbs adapted to seasonally wet or waterlogged conditions, are poorly known, and the impact of land use history on marshland diversity and shifts in plant functional groups has been scantly researched. In this study, we used a chronosequence approach to investigate herbaceous wetland communities in different recovery phases (<5 years, 5-15 years, and >15 years), as well as natural wetland as a reference. We assessed their ecological characteristics, species composition and diversity to determine how they change during natural succession. Plant species composition and dominance in the abandoned fields changed markedly during natural secondary succession. Initially, the annual weeds and were dominant. Later, communities gradually became dominated first by and then by tussock-forming . Species diversity was higher in abandoned fields than in natural wetlands and decreased with time. The partition of β-diversity components revealed that replacement was the prominent process structuring plant communities in paddy field at different times since abandonment. Our results suggest that the vegetation of abandoned paddy fields could be restored effectively through natural succession, although there were some differences in plant functional group traits. Abandoned paddy fields may be good sites for restoration of wetland species and conservation of wetland habitat.
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