Do forest-dwelling plant species disperse along landscape corridors?
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- Liira, J. & Paal, T. Plant Ecol (2013) 214: 455. doi:10.1007/s11258-013-0182-1
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Woody corridors in fragmented landscapes have been proposed as alternative habitats for forest plants, but the great variation in species-specific responses blurs the overall assessment. The aim of this study was to estimate the dispersal success of forest-dwelling plants from a stand into and along an attached woody corridor, and to explain the observed patterns from the point of view of species’ dispersal traits and corridor properties. We sampled 47 forest–corridor transects in the agricultural landscapes of southeastern Estonia. Regionally common forest-dwelling species (observed in at least 10 % of seed-source forests) were classified on the basis of their ecological response profile—forest-restricted species (F-type) and forest-dwelling generalists (G-type). Species richness and the proportion of F-type species decreased sharply from the seed-source forest core to the forest edge and to the first 10–15 m of the corridor, while G-type species richness remained constant throughout the transect. Corridor structure had a species-specific effect—F species were promoted by old (≥50 years) and wide (≥10 m) corridors, while G species were supported by young and narrow corridors with ditch-related soil disturbances. Moderate shade (canopy cover <75 %) was optimal for all forest-dwelling species. Large dispersule weight, and not seed weight, dispersal vector or Ellenberg’s indicator values, was the trait that differentiated F species from G species. We conclude that most woody corridors are only dispersal stepping-stone habitats for habitat generalist species, and not for specialists. Only century old corridors can relieve the dispersal limitation of forest-restricted species.