Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 937–958 | Cite as

Landscape context determinants to plant diversity in the permanent meadows of Southern European Alps

  • Antonio T. Monteiro
  • Francesco Fava
  • João Gonçalves
  • Alfredo Huete
  • Fausto Gusmeroli
  • Gilberto Parolo
  • Donatela Spano
  • Stefano Bocchi
Original Paper


In the Southern Alps, the role of landscape context on meadows plant diversity was evaluated using a multi-model information theoretic approach and five competing hypotheses of landscape context factors: habitat quality (H1), matrix quality (H2), habitat change (H3), matrix quality change (H4) and topography-environmental conditions (H5)- measured at three spatial scales (125, 250 and 500 m). Shannon diversity index and species richness represented plant diversity obtained in 34 plots (100 m2 size). Landscape context affected plant diversity measures differently. Matrix quality change at larger scale (500 m) was the most supported hypothesis explaining Shannon diversity index, while species richness responded mostly to topography-environmental conditions in the immediate surroundings (125 m). No effects of present-day habitat and matrix quality (H1 and H2) were found. Matrix quality change affected positively Shannon diversity index through an effect of landscape neighbourhood context on farming management practices. Due to the importance of exposure and inclination of slopes, topography-environmental conditions influenced species richness mostly through energy-driven processes and farming management strategies. In terms of scale, matrix quality change was the strongest hypothesis explaining Shannon diversity index at all scales, while the underlying process affecting species richness changed with scale (H5 or H3). Overall, landscape context explained only 25–28 % of the variation in plant diversity, suggesting that landscape management may support biodiversity conservation when comprised in a global strategy including farming practices. In the study area, change in landscape diversity may be a good indicator for Shannon diversity index and south-eastern facing meadows should be preserved.


Multi-model inference Matrix quality change Topography-environmental conditions Habitat change Species richness Shannon diversity index AIC EVI 



We thank the cooperation of the local farmers during the field work. We acknowledge the project CAPPA and MIUR for their financial support of this project. We acknowledge Dr. Erika Hiltbrunner and Dr. Karen Budge for important insights to improve the manuscript, and the support of Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change during the last phase of the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonio T. Monteiro
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francesco Fava
    • 3
  • João Gonçalves
    • 4
  • Alfredo Huete
    • 5
  • Fausto Gusmeroli
    • 6
  • Gilberto Parolo
    • 7
  • Donatela Spano
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stefano Bocchi
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Science for Nature and Environmental ResourcesUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.Impacts on Agriculture, Forest and Natural Ecosystems Division (IAFENT)Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate ChangeSassariItaly
  3. 3.Remote Sensing of Environmental Dynamics LaboratoryUniversity of Milan-BicoccaMilanItaly
  4. 4.Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic ResourcesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  5. 5.Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, School of Environment, University Technology SydneySydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Fojanini Foundation of SondrioSondrioItaly
  7. 7.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  8. 8.Department of Crop ScienceUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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