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Ecology. 2006 Dec;87(12):3186-99.

Spatial heterogeneity influences native and nonnative plant species richness.

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1
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523-1499, USA. sunil@nrel.colostate.edu

Abstract

Spatial heterogeneity may have differential effects on the distribution of native and nonnative plant species richness. We examined the effects of spatial heterogeneity on native and nonnative plant species richness distributions in the central part of Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA. Spatial heterogeneity around vegetation plots was characterized using landscape metrics, environmental/topographic variables (slope, aspect, elevation, and distance from stream or river), and soil variables (nitrogen, clay, and sand). The landscape metrics represented five components of landscape heterogeneity and were measured at four spatial extents (within varying radii of 120, 240, 480, and 960 m) using the FRAGSTATS landscape pattern analysis program. Akaike's Information Criterion adjusted for small sample size (AICc) was used to select the best models from a set of multiple linear regression models developed for native and nonnative plant species richness at four spatial extents and three levels of ecological hierarchy (i.e., landscape, land cover, and community). Both native and nonnative plant species richness were positively correlated with edge density, Simpson's diversity index and interspersion/juxtaposition index, and were negatively correlated with mean patch size. The amount of variation explained at four spatial extents and three hierarchical levels ranged from 30% to 70%. At the landscape level, the best models explained 43% of the variation in native plant species richness and 70% of the variation in nonnative plant species richness (240-m extent). In general, the amount of variation explained was always higher for nonnative plant species richness, and the inclusion of landscape metrics always significantly improved the models. The best models explained 66% of the variation in nonnative plant species richness for both the conifer land cover type and lodgepole pine community. The relative influence of the components of spatial heterogeneity differed for native and nonnative plant species richness and varied with the spatial extent of analysis and levels of ecological hierarchy. The study offers an approach to quantify spatial heterogeneity to improve models of plant biodiversity. The results demonstrate that ecologists must recognize the importance of spatial heterogeneity in managing native and nonnative plant species.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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