, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 157-168

Plant-species richness in corridor intersections: is intersection shape influential?

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Abstract

Corridor intersections constitute nodes that can be more mesic than the intersecting corridors themselves. Such microclimatic conditions may lead to an “intersection effect,” in which plant richness is higher in the intersection than in the corridors. We hypothesized that an additional factor contributing to intersection effects is the movement of plants along corridors into intersections by way of bird- and mammal-dispersed seeds. If this hypothesis is correct, one would expect intersection-shape effects, defined herein as differences in intersection section richness associated with the number of possible avenues for plant influx into the intersection. Specifically, richness in intersections should be lowest for L-shape intersections (two avenues), higher for T-shape intersections (three avenues), and highest for X-shape intersections (four avenues). We used data from fencerow networks to test this hypothesis about corridor intersections. During October 1992 and March 1993, we determined woody- and herbaceous-plant richness for 25 intersections and their associated fencerows in central Texas, USA. We compared two measures of intersection richness among the three intersection shapes: richness of plants dispersed primarily by birds and mammals (vertebrate-dispersed plant richness), and richness of plants dispersed primarily by wind, ants or other means (non-vertebrate dispersed plant richness). Vertebrate-dispersed plant richness differed significantly among intersection shapes, but no differences in nonvertebrate dispersed plant richness were evident, which is what one would expect if the number of avenues for vertebrate vectors into an intersection was an important factor influencing intersection richness. The intersection-shape effects we found were not attributable to fencerow features (amount of woody cover, width, pressence of breaks) or intersection characteristics (amount of woody cover, size, distance to nearest connected intersection or patch). Our results from fencerow networks support the hypothesis that intersection effects on plant richness are influenced by intersection shape via the number of intersecting corridors. Understanding patterns and processes that occur in networks is important for conservation biologists because intersections in networks have the potential to function as refugia for plant species that require conditions more mesic than those of the surrounding matrix. Networks also may be valuable asin situ sources of seed for managers attempting to restore plant communities in the matrix.