Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 11, pp 2799–2813 | Cite as

Factors influencing the spatial distribution of forest plant species in hedgerows of North-western Germany

  • Stephan WehlingEmail author
  • Martin Diekmann
Original Paper


In North-western Germany woodland fragmentation has caused a decline in many forest plant species. Hedgerows partly offer a similar environment as forests and have been identified as potential habitats for forest plants in various studies from North America and Western Europe. The objective of this study was to examine whether this applies also to Central Europe and which variables affect the spatial distribution and abundance of forest plant species in hedgerows on a local scale. Three hedgerow networks north of the city of Bremen, Germany, were selected as study areas and divided into totally 515 hedgerow segments. In each segment we recorded all vascular plants and a large number of explanatory variables relating to structure, spatial configuration, environment and management. Averaged across species there was a predominant effect of environmental factors on the occurrence of forest species in the hedgerows, followed by spatial configuration and management. Hedgerow structure was found to be less important. In general, forest species were favored by low nutrient and light availability as well as high connectivity with other hedgerows or forest; they avoided hedgerows with a west-easterly orientation and an adjacent land use in the form of fields or grasslands. Forest species found and not found in hedgerows did not differ in their environmental preferences or life history traits. The number of threatened forest species in the hedgerows, however, was lower than expected with respect to their overall proportion to the total number of forest species in the region.


Environmental variables Forest fragmentation Hedgerow structure Land use Life history traits Partial regression analysis Spatial configuration 



Herbaceous species preferring the forest interior


Herbaceous species preferring forest edges and gaps


Variable group environment


Variable group management


Variable group spatial configuration


Variable group structure



We are grateful for the grant to S.W. from the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU). Detlev Metzing provided the floristic mapping data for the study region. We also thank our colleagues at the University of Bremen for advice and assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vegetation Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of BremenBremenGermany

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