, Volume 176, Issue 2, pp 185-194

Plant species richness and spatial organization at different small scales in western Mediterranean landscapes

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Abstract

The relationship between plant species richness and the space organization of the community at different small scales was studied. The study was based on 51 sites distributed along a belt from Central Spain to Portugal. Each site was analyzed with a transect cutting across the boundary between two neighboring patches of shrubland and grassland. Local spatial organization of vegetation was analyzed at different levels of detail and each transect was divided into successively smaller portions. The first division coincides with a physiognomic perception of the site in two patches (shrubland and grassland). The average spatial niche width of the species was used to calculate the spatial organization of the vegetation of each division in each site. The correlation between species richness and spatial organization depended on the block size under consideration. A physiognomic criterion, sectorizing the sites into patches of shrubland and grassland, determines noteworthy floristic changes but does not enable us to express satisfactorily the variability in plant richness. In order to account for this variation, other factors must be taken into account which act at a more detailed small-scale and which determine the internal variability of these patches. In the case studied, the species richness of the sites increases along with an increase in the percentage of species whose occupation of the space is relatively restricted within the site. Many of these species are, however, frequent within the whole of the territory studied. The results highlight the importance of the level of local scale at which the factors influencing occupation of the space, and consequentially, plant richness, preferentially act. This circumstance ought to be taken into consideration in strategies for the conservation of biological diversity, and based on the delimitation of protected spaces with criteria frequently linked to the physiognomy of the vegetation.

Nomenclature: Follows T.G. Tutin et al. 1964-1980. Flora Europaea. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge