Plant Ecology

, Volume 214, Issue 3, pp 477–488 | Cite as

Plant diversity changes and succession along resource availability and disturbance gradients in Kamchatka

  • Jiří Doležal
  • Valentine Yakubov
  • Toshihiko Hara


Changes in plant species richness across environmental and temporal gradients have often been explained by the intermediate disturbance hypothesis and a unimodal diversity–productivity relationship. We tested these predictions using two sets of mountain plant communities assembled along postglacial successional and snow depth (disturbance and stress) gradients in maritime Kamchatka. In each community, we counted the number of species in plots of increasing sizes (0.0025–100 m2) and analyzed them using species–area curves fitted by the Arrhenius power function and the Gleason logarithmic function. A comparison of successional communities along a 270-year-old moraine chronosequence behind the receding Koryto Glacier—representing gradients of increasing productivity and resource competition—confirmed the unimodal species richness pattern. The plant diversity peaked in a 60–80-year-old SalixAlnus stand where light availability was sufficient to sustain a rich understory combining pioneer and late successional herbs. The closed Alnus canopy on older moraines caused a pronounced decrease in species richness for all plot sizes (interactive stage 80–120 years since deglaciation). A slight increase in species richness in the oldest assortative stages (120–270 years), when Alnus stands are mature, was found only at the smaller spatial scales. This reflects (i) the consolidation of clonal understory dominants and (ii) the absence of other woody species such as Betula ermanii whose invasion would eliminate Alnus and increase diversity at larger spatial scales. A comparative study of major mountain plant communities distributed above the Koryto Glacier foreland did not confirm the highest species richness at intermediate levels of disturbance and stress. Contrary to our expectation, the species richness was highest in alpine tundra and snowbed communities, which are subjected to severe winter frost and a short summer season, while less disturbed communities of subalpine meadows, heaths, and Betula ermanii woods were less species-rich. We attribute this pattern to differences in habitat area and species pool size.


Species–area curve Intermediate disturbance hypothesis Unimodal diversity–productivity relationship Plant diversity Kamchatka Postglacial succession 



The authors thank Marina Vyatkina, K. Homma, K. Takahashi, A. Ovsanikov, K. Yamagata, and T. Sone for their field assistance and Valentina Vetrova and the members of the Kamchatka Institute of Ecology and Nature Management in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, for their hospitality and logistic support. This study was supported by a Monbusho Grant-in-Aid for International Scientific Research (11691166), Japan. JD was supported by GAČR 13-13368S and GAJU 138/2010/P. The authors thank Dr. Brian G. McMillan for linguistic improvements.

Supplementary material

11258_2013_184_MOESM1_ESM.doc (112 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 112 kb)
11258_2013_184_MOESM2_ESM.doc (31 kb)
Supplementary Fig. S1 Layout of the 10 × 10 m plots with two sequences of nested square subplots with increasing size of 0.0025–0.01–0.0625–0.25–1–6.25–25–100 m2 sampled for assessing species–area curves. The numbers refer to the lengths of the edges of the respective squares in metres. (DOC 31 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiří Doležal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Valentine Yakubov
    • 3
  • Toshihiko Hara
    • 4
  1. 1.Section of Plant EcologyInstitute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicTřeboňCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Botany, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  3. 3.Institute of Biology and Soil ScienceVladivostokRussia
  4. 4.Institute of Low Temperature ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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