Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 6, pp 1577–1588 | Cite as

Diversity partitioning of moorland plant communities across hierarchical spatial scales

  • Takehiro Sasaki
  • Masatoshi Katabuchi
  • Chiho Kamiyama
  • Masaya Shimazaki
  • Tohru Nakashizuka
  • Kouki Hikosaka
Original Paper


Understanding of the scaling of diversity is critical to enhance conservation strategies for subalpine moorland ecosystems vulnerable to future environmental changes. However, a paucity of quantitative data strongly limits such attempts. In this study, we used an additive diversity partitioning framework and quantified diversity patterns of moorland plant communities across hierarchical spatial scales, within- and between-sample transects, and between sites (corresponding to α and two levels of β diversity). Moorland sites markedly differed in size (range 1,000–160,000 m2) and were isolated from each other to varying extents within an inhospitable matrix (i.e., forests). We found that β diversity components were consistently higher, whereas the local α diversity component was consistently lower than expected by chance. We observed substantial contribution at the between-site scale to total species richness. By focusing on diversity patterns of moorland plant communities across multiple hierarchical spatial scales, we could thus identify the scale at which regional diversity is maximized. Our results suggest that protection of as many moorland sites as possible, to ensure beta diversity between sites, will effectively conserve total diversity. The use of additive diversity partitioning is a major step forward in providing strategies for the biological conservation of subalpine moorland ecosystems vulnerable to future environmental changes.


Alpha diversity Beta diversity Gamma diversity Nonrandom processes Species richness 



We thank the members of our laboratory for their kindness in helping with the fieldwork, especially Yukari Abe, Sawako Imahiro, Akira Inoue, and Yuta Nihonmatsu. We also thank Koji Yonekura for his advice about species identification, and Hiroko Kurokawa, for her helpful comments and discussions on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This work was financially supported by the Global Environmental Research Fund of Japan’s Ministry of the Environment (No. D-0904), with additional support from Tohoku University’s Global COE program “Ecosystem Adaptability Science for the Future” (No. J03) and a Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists B (No. 23710278) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Takehiro Sasaki
    • 1
  • Masatoshi Katabuchi
    • 1
  • Chiho Kamiyama
    • 1
  • Masaya Shimazaki
    • 1
  • Tohru Nakashizuka
    • 1
  • Kouki Hikosaka
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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