, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 969-987

Scale-dependent importance of environment, land use and landscape structure for species richness and composition of SE Norwegian modern agricultural landscapes

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Knowledge of variation in vascular plant species richness and species composition in modern agricultural landscapes is important for appropriate biodiversity management. From species lists for 2201 land-type patches in 16 1-km2 plots five data sets differing in sampling-unit size from patch to plot were prepared. Variation in each data set was partitioned into seven sources: patch geometry, patch type, geographic location, plot affiliation, habitat diversity, ecological factors, and land-use intensity. Patch species richness was highly predictable (75% of variance explained) by patch area, within-patch heterogeneity and patch type. Plot species richness was, however, not predictable by any explanatory variable, most likely because all studied landscapes contained all main patch types – ploughed land, woodland, grassland and other open land – and hence had a large core of common species. Patch species composition was explained by variation along major environmental complex gradients but appeared nested to lower degrees in modern than in traditional agricultural landscapes because species-poor parts of the landscape do not contain well-defined subsets of the species pool of species-rich parts. Variation in species composition was scale dependent because the relative importance of specific complex gradients changed with increasing sampling-unit size, and because the amount of randomness in data sets decreased with increasing sampling-unit size. Our results indicate that broad landscape structural changes will have consequences for landscape-scale species richness that are hard or impossible to predict by simple surrogate variables.