Previous studies have shown that variations in environmental conditions play a major role in explaining variations in plant species richness at community and landscape scales. In this study, we considered the degree to which fine-scale spatial variations in richness could be related to fine-scale variations in abiotic and biotic factors. To examine spatial variation in richness, grids of 1 m(2) plots were laid out at five sites within a coastal riverine wetland landscape. At each site, a 5 x 7 array of plots was established adjacent to the river's edge with plots one meter apart. In addition to the estimation of species richness, environmental measurements included sediment salinity, plot microelevation, percent of plot recently disturbed, and estimated community biomass. Our analysis strategy was to combine the use of structural equation modeling (path modeling) with an assessment of spatial association. Mantel's tests revealed significant spatial autocorrelation in species richness at four of the five sites sampled, indicating that richness in a plot correlated with the richness of nearby plots. We subsequently considered the degree to which spatial autocorrelations in richness could be explained by spatial autocorrelations in environmental conditions. Once data were corrected for environmental correlations, spatial autocorrelation in residual species richness could not be detected at any site. Based on these results, we conclude that in this coastal wetland, there appears to be a fine-scale mapping of diversity to microgradients in environmental conditions.
Additional publication details
Fine-scale spatial variation in plant species richness and its relationship to environmental conditions in coastal marshlands