Spatial configuration matters: a test of the habitat amount hypothesis for plants in calcareous grasslands

Abstract

Context

A recent hypothesis, the habitat amount hypothesis, predicts that the total amount of habitat in the landscape can replace habitat patch size and isolation in studies of species richness in fragmented landscapes.

Objectives

To test the habitat amount hypothesis by first evaluating at which spatial scale the relationship between species richness in equal-sized sample quadrats and habitat amount was the strongest, and then test the importance of spatial configuration of habitat—measured as local patch size and isolation—when habitat amount was taken into account.

Methods

A quasi-experimental setup with 20 habitat patches of dry calcareous grasslands varying in patch size, patch isolation and habitat amount at the landscape scale was established in the inner Oslo fjord, Southern Norway. We recorded species richness of habitat specialists of vascular plants in equal-sized sample quadrats and analysed the relationship between species richness, habitat amount in the landscape and patch size and isolation.

Results

Although the total amount of habitat in a 3 km-radius around the local patch was positively related to species richness in the sample quadrats, local patch size had an additional positive effect, and the effect of patch size was higher when the amount of habitat within the 3 km-radius was high than when it was low.

Conclusions

In our study system of specialist vascular plants in dry calcareous grasslands, we do not find support for the habitat amount hypothesis.

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Acknowledgments

This study was carried out under the projects ‘‘Survey and monitoring of red-listed species’’ (ARKO, funded by the Norwegian Environment Agency), and ‘‘Management of biodiversity and ecosystem services in spatially structured landscapes’’ (funded by the Norwegian Research Council, grant 208434/F40). We are grateful to A. Often, O. Skarpaas, O.E. Stabbetorp and J. Wesenberg for fieldwork contributions, and to three referees for valuable comments to earlier versions of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Marianne Evju.

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Evju, M., Sverdrup-Thygeson, A. Spatial configuration matters: a test of the habitat amount hypothesis for plants in calcareous grasslands. Landscape Ecol 31, 1891–1902 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-016-0405-7

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Keywords

  • Connectivity
  • Conservation
  • Fragmentation
  • Habitat amount
  • Plant diversity
  • Spatial configuration