Spatial patterns and interspecific relations analysis help to better understand species distribution patterns in a Mediterranean high mountain grassland
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The aim of this study is to investigate distribution patterns of species occurring at definite spatial scales and to address the main ecological factors that structure a Mediterranean high mountain grassland community. Following the protocols of the GLORIA long-term study, four summits were sampled during the year 2006 and 2007 in Sierra de Guadarrama (Spain). The data recorded on two of those summits were analysed for spatial pattern of species, interspecific associations and environmental relationships were determined from the recorded data. This was done by multivariate analyses (ordinations), SADIE analyses (distance indices) and Pearson χ2 test, respectively. Results showed that chamaephyte species were more abundant in less disturbed situations whilst caespitose hemicryptophyte species and mosses were more abundant in disturbed ones. High mountain species were more abundant in less disturbed situations. Higher spatial heterogeneity was detected on northern and eastern slopes, which could be related to the increased environmental severity of northern exposures and to the greater intensity of the disturbances on eastern exposures. The frequent aggregated distribution of a few species may be related to facilitation processes due to their frequent participation in positive interactions. Finally we observed that positive pairwise associations of species were more frequent than negative associations. The relevance of the studied relationships lied in a better understanding of those threats on high mountain biodiversity induced by climate warming.