Original Paper

Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 929-943

First online:

Habitat type richness associations with environmental variables: a case study in the Greek Natura 2000 aquatic ecosystems

  • Evangelia G. DrakouAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University Email author 
  • , Athanasios S. KallimanisAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental and Natural Resource Management, University of Ioannina
  • , Antonios D. MazarisAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University
  • , Evangelia ApostolopoulouAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University
  • , John D. PantisAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology, School of Biology, Aristotle University

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Abstract

We investigated the potential associations of habitat type richness patterns with a series of environmental variables in 61 protected aquatic ecosystems of the Greek Natura 2000 network. Habitat type classification followed the Natura 2000 classification scheme. Habitat type richness was measured as the number of different habitat types in an area. To overcome a potential area effect in quantifying habitat type richness, we applied the “moving window” technique. The environmental variables were selected to account for some of the major threats to biodiversity, such as fragmentation, habitat loss and climate change. We run GLMs to associate habitat type richness with different combinations of climatic, spatial and topographic variables. Habitat type richness seemed to significantly associate with climatic variables, more than spatial or topographic ones. In particular, for the climatic ones, the importance of precipitation surpassed that of temperature and especially the precipitation of the wettest and driest month had a limiting contribution to richness unlike average climate estimators. Moreover, the landscape’s latitude and longitude and fragmentation were significantly associated to richness. Our findings are in accordance to those observed in recent literature at lower (i.e. species) levels of ecological organization, fact showing that large-scale phenomena (such as climate change) can also be observed at the habitat type level, at least in our case. Thus, following the context of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), that habitat types and not solely species of community interest should be protected and restored, this study serves as a first step towards investigating habitat type richness patterns.

Keywords

Area effect Climate change GLMs Habitats directive Moving window Natura 2000