, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1017-1031
Date: 24 Mar 2013

Roadside habitats: effects on diversity and composition of plant, arthropod, and small mammal communities

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Road edge effects cover extensive areas and exert a wide range of ecological influences on nearby plants and animals. Most studies have focused on individual and population level effects of the road edge; less is known about how communities and their functionality are altered in proximity to roads. Here, we studied the effect of road edges on species richness, rarity, endemism, composition, and functional (trophic) classification of communities of plants, ground-dwelling arthropods (beetles, spiders, scorpions, diplopods), and small mammals. The study, conducted in a Mediterranean ecosystem in central Israel, included sampling of these taxa in 10 plots adjacent to a regional road, and in 12 nearby control plots located in a typical shrubland habitat. We found a variety of community level road edge effects on the structure, composition, and function of the studied communities. The extent of effects varied among taxa, but they were generally positive or neutral. For the species-rich taxa (plants, beetles, and spiders), distinct road edge communities characterized by higher richness and altered species composition were found. Rarity and endemism were lower, and the proportion of disturbance-associated plant species was higher at the road edge. Among the species-poor taxa, scorpions and small mammals were more abundant along road edges than in control plots, while diplopods, the only negatively affected taxon, showed decreased abundance along the road. No ecologically meaningful changes in richness or composition were detected for the species-poor taxa along the road edge. Road edges profoundly affect floral and faunal communities, with possible implications for biodiversity conservation.