Distance and environmental difference in alpine plant communities

Physical Geography
George Malanson; Dale Zimmerman
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Differences in plant communities are a response to the abiotic environment, species interactions, and dispersal. The role of geographic distance relative to the abiotic environment is explored for alpine tundra vegetation from 319 plots of four regions along the Rocky Mountain cordillera in the USA. The site by species data were ordinated using nonmetric multidimensional scaling to produce dependent variables for use in best-subsets regression. For independent variables, observations of local topography and microtopography were used as environmental indicators. Two methods of including distance in studies of vegetation and environment are used and contrasted. The relative importance of geographic distance in accounting for the pattern of alpine tundra similarity indicates that location is a factor in plant community composition. Mantel tests provide direct correlations between difference and distance but have known weaknesses. Moran spatial eigenvectors used in regression based approaches have greater geographic specificity, but require another step, ordination, in creating a vegetation variable. While the spatial eigenvectors are generally preferable, where species–environment relations are weak, as seems to be the case for the alpine sites studied here, the fewer abstractions of the Mantel test may be useful.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Distance and environmental difference in alpine plant communities
Series title Physical Geography
DOI 10.1080/02723646.2017.1327284
Volume 38
Issue 6
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Taylor and Francis
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 16 p.
First page 489
Last page 505
Country United States
Other Geospatial Rocky Mountain cordillera
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