, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1279-1295
Date: 15 Dec 2009

Vascular plant species richness on wetland remnants is determined by both area and habitat heterogeneity

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There is an ongoing ecological debate on whether area per se or habitat heterogeneity is the main driver for species richness. The wetland remnants in the Sanjiang Plain, NE China harbor a high biodiversity and play an important role for local ecosystems. Fifty-one wetland remnants were sampled to examine the effect of area and habitat heterogeneity on vascular plant species richness. Number of community types, elevation, water heterogeneity and soil resource heterogeneity were employed as habitat heterogeneity variables, but only water heterogeneity was identified as the proper surrogate for habitat heterogeneity. Compared with the classic species-area model, the choros model achieved better fitness when water heterogeneity and elevation were employed as habitat heterogeneity variables. Nevertheless, elevation was poorly correlated with species richness. It suggests, without a comprehensive analysis of habitat heterogeneity variables, the choros model might result in a misleading result. In this study, species richness was significantly influenced by water heterogeneity, area and number of community types. Water heterogeneity and area both controlled the number of community types, and they were the two main determinants of species richness. As area was significantly and positively correlated with water heterogeneity, the variance in species richness was mainly related to the mutual effect of area and water heterogeneity. The results of this study confirmed that the relationship between the area per se hypothesis and the habitat heterogeneity hypothesis was conjunct rather than mutually exclusive. In addition, it is critical that both area and water heterogeneity should be taken into account for biodiversity conservation and management in wetland remnants.