, Volume 212, Issue 3, pp 519-529
Date: 02 Oct 2010

Spatial patterns of species distributions in grazed subalpine grasslands

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Abstract

Spatial patterns of species diversity have important influences on the functioning of ecosystems, and the effect of livestock grazing on spatial heterogeneity can differ depending on the scale of the analysis. This study examined the effects of grazing on the spatial patterns of species distributions and whether the effects of grazing on the spatial distributions of a species vary with the scale of the analysis. Data were collected at three locations in the subalpine grasslands of Ordesa-Monte Perdido National Park and Aísa Valley, Central Pyrenees, Spain, which differed in mean stocking rates. Aspect explained about one-third of the environmental variation in species distributions. In flat areas, spatial variation in species composition varied with grazing intensity at two scales. At a coarse scale (among vegetation patches), grazing promoted patchiness, and among-transect variation in species diversity and grazing intensity were positively correlated. At a fine scale (within vegetation patches), the disruption of the self-organizing processes of the species spatial distributions resulted in a reduction in the long-range spatial autocorrelations of some of the characteristic species and in the homogenization of species spatial distributions. The presence of encroaching Echinospartum horridum had a significant influence on the effect of grazing on south-facing grassland slopes.