Landscape structure affects specialists but not generalists in naturally fragmented grasslands

Ecology
Jesse E. D. Miller, University of Wisconsin Ellen I. Damschen, University of Wisconsin Susan P. Harrison, University of California - Davis
By: , and 

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Abstract

Understanding how biotic communities respond to landscape spatial structure is critically important for conservation management as natural landscapes become increasingly fragmented. However, empirical studies of the effects of spatial structure on plant species richness have found inconsistent results, suggesting that more comprehensive approaches are needed. In this study, we asked how landscape structure affects total plant species richness and the richness of a guild of specialized plants in a multivariate context. We sampled herbaceous plant communities at 56 dolomite glades (insular, fire-adapted grasslands) across the Missouri Ozarks, and used structural equation modeling (SEM) to analyze the relative importance of landscape structure, soil resource availability, and fire history for plant communities. We found that landscape spatial structure-defined as the area-weighted proximity of glade habitat surrounding study sites (proximity index)-had a significant effect on total plant species richness, but only after we controlled for environmental covariates. Richness of specialist species, but not generalists, was positively related to landscape spatial structure. Our results highlight that local environmental filters must be considered to understand the influence of landscape structure on communities, and that unique species guilds may respond differently to landscape structure than the community as a whole. These findings suggest that both local environment and landscape context should be considered when developing management strategies for species of conservation concern in fragmented habitats.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Landscape structure affects specialists but not generalists in naturally fragmented grasslands
Series title Ecology
DOI 10.1890/15-0245.1
Volume 96
Issue 12
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Ecological Society of America
Publisher location Brooklyn, NY
Contributing office(s) National Wetlands Research Center
Description 9 p.
First page 3323
Last page 3331
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N