Road and railway verges serve as dispersal corridors for grassland plants
- Cite this article as:
- Tikka, P.M., Högmander, H. & Koski, P.S. Landscape Ecology (2001) 16: 659. doi:10.1023/A:1013120529382
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The role of linear habitat strips as dispersal corridors is a disputed topic. Reports concerning their significance for animals have been contradictory, and the functions of corridors have been difficult to study in the case of sedentary organisms such as plants. Previous studies on dispersal of plants along corridors have concentrated on a single or a few species at a time. We developed a general method, a generalisation of the binomial test, for considering dispersal or spatial relations of a large group of species. Particularly, we studied the ability of grassland plants to spread along road and railway verges. Our data set consists of plant lists collected at study plots scattered irregularly along road and railway networks. The dispersal ability was assessed by testing whether the species composition at neighbouring sites – measured along roads and railways – reflects spatial dependence within each species. Our result showed that similar combinations of grassland species occurred at neighbouring sites more often than expected in a spatially independent case. We argue that management of verges and spatial autocorrelation of environmental factors were not responsible for the result and thereby we conclude that grassland plants use road and railway corridors for dispersal. This result is encouraging in regards to preservation of grassland plant populations. Although semi-natural and natural grasslands have become scarce, road and railway embankments may partly compensate for this loss, serving as substitute habitats and dispersal routes.