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If we remove all the ferns and horsetails from the ecological equation would grass be the only candidate to fill the void? If not, then what else?

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  • $\begingroup$ Clover is a good alternative to grass and dandelion would benefit from have less competitors. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jun 26 '15 at 4:36
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    $\begingroup$ Grass in fact evolved fairly recently (in geological terms), perhaps 60-100 million years ago. Ferns & horsetails, or at least those surviving today, have fairly limited environmental requirements, e.g. plenty of moisture. Lots of habitats that don't have much grass: forests, chaparral, sagebrush scrub, &c. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 26 '15 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf That doesn't answer the question. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Jun 26 '15 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnWDailey: It certainly does answer the question, as it describes many ecosystems that a) don't have ferns/horsetails (hence no 'void); and b) don't have grass in significant amounts. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 26 '15 at 18:03
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If you find yourself in an environment where there are a lot of ferns and horsetails, there is likely to be a lot of moss around too. Now mosses don't grow particularly tall ( though there are some larger ones ) but they can grow on many different surfaces without needing much soil and survive well in very boggy ground.

In an environment without ferns and horsetails it seems quite plausible that you might see a divergence of mosses filling those ecological niches.

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In the short term plants that are more similar to grass are likely to move in to fill the void initially, but even if that were not the case eventually some plant would move to fill the niche. There are a wide range of plants including gorse, heathers, etc.

For example take a look at this picture:

enter image description here

There isn't much grass, fern, or horsetail in this picture but there is extensive low level plant cover filling a similar role.

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