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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 2151–2166 | Cite as

Topographically controlled soil moisture drives plant diversity patterns within grasslands

  • Jesper Erenskjold Moeslund
  • Lars Arge
  • Peder Klith Bøcher
  • Tommy Dalgaard
  • Rasmus Ejrnæs
  • Mette Vestergaard Odgaard
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
Original Paper

Abstract

Grasslands are recognized as biodiversity hotspots in Europe. However, protection and management of these habitats are currently constrained by a limited understanding of what determines local grassland plant diversity patterns. Here, we combined vegetation records (8,639 inventory plots) from 258 semi-natural grasslands with fine-resolution topographic data based on light detection and ranging technology to investigate the importance of topography—particularly topographically controlled soil moisture—for local and regional grassland plant diversity patterns across a 43,000 km2 lowland region (Denmark). Specifically, we examined the relationships between five vegetation measures representing species composition and richness as well as functional composition (Ellenberg indicator values) and four functional topographic factors representing topographic wetness, potential solar radiation, heat balance and wind exposure. Topography emerged as an important determinant of diversity patterns in both wet and dry grasslands throughout the study region, with topographic wetness being the strongest correlate of the main local (within-site) and regional (among-sites) gradients in species composition and species’ average preferences for soil moisture. Accordingly, topography plays an important role in shaping grassland plant diversity patterns both locally and regionally throughout this lowland European region, with this role mainly driven by topographically controlled soil moisture. These findings suggest hydrology to be important to consider in the planning and management of European grasslands.

Keywords

Europe Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) Local scale NATURA 2000 Solar radiation Topographic wetness index (TWI) Vegetation Wind 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Bettina Nygaard for help accessing the NOVANA data and gratefully acknowledge funding from the Aarhus University Research Foundation via the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Informatics Research (CIGIR), the Danish Strategic Research Council, Center for Massive Data Algorithmics, a Center of the Danish National Research Foundation, and the Oticon Foundation (grant to J.E.M.).

Supplementary material

10531_2013_442_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (115 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 114 kb)
10531_2013_442_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (338 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 338 kb)
10531_2013_442_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (42 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 41 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper Erenskjold Moeslund
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lars Arge
    • 2
  • Peder Klith Bøcher
    • 1
  • Tommy Dalgaard
    • 3
  • Rasmus Ejrnæs
    • 4
  • Mette Vestergaard Odgaard
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jens-Christian Svenning
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecoinformatics & Biodiversity Group, Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Center for Massive Data Algorithmics (MADALGO), Department of Computer ScienceAarhus UniversityAarhus NDenmark
  3. 3.Agricultural Systems and Sustainability, Department of AgroecologyAarhus UniversityTjeleDenmark
  4. 4.Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversityRøndeDenmark

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