Plant Ecology

, Volume 193, Issue 1, pp 15–30 | Cite as

Environmental controls on dominance and diversity of woody plant species in a Madrean, Sky Island ecosystem, Arizona, USA

  • Helen M. Poulos
  • Alan H. Taylor
  • R. Matthew Beaty
Original Paper


The Sky Island archipelagos of the Sierra Madre Occidental contain diverse, highly endemic, and topographically complex ecosystems, yet the local and landscape-scale controls on woody plant dominance and diversity patterns are poorly understood. This study examines variation in woody plant species composition in relation to a suite of environmental variables (i.e., elevation, potential soil moisture, soil type, geologic substrate, and heat load) in the Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona (CHIR). Nine vegetation types were identified using cluster analysis that varied by species composition and plant life form. Non-metric multidimensional scaling and correlation analyses identified significant relationships between vegetation composition and elevation, potential soil moisture, and heat load. Rarefied species richness varied among vegetation types, and in relation to topography, with higher species richness occurring on more topographically complex sites. β (species turnover) and γ (landscape) diversity were also high in CHIR compared to other temperate forests. This study highlights the importance of local- and landscape-scale environmental controls on species diversity and vegetation patterns in Madrean evergreen woodlands.


Species diversity Cluster analysis Ordination Gradient analysis Madrean evergreen woodlands Sky Islands 



This research was supported by a cooperative agreement (CA4000-8-9028) between the USDI National Park Service and the Pennsylvania State University. We thank Kathy Davis of the Southwestern Parks and Monuments Association and Alan Whalon and Carrie Dennett of the Chiricahua National Monument for their logistical support. Assistance by Tom Saladyga, Tom Nagel, and Beth Auman in the field was greatly appreciated. We also thank Andrew Barton and John Vankat for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen M. Poulos
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alan H. Taylor
    • 1
  • R. Matthew Beaty
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Yale School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsCanberraAustralia

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