Assessing fern diversity: relative species richness and its environmental correlates in Uganda
Techniques for the rapid quantification of tropical biodiversity are of critical importance in deciding where to invest scarce conservation resources. Here we describe a simple survey method for assessing species-level richness of a poorly known plant group, the pteridophytes. We then illustrate the use of a powerful, rarefaction- based technique of controlling for inevitable differences in sampling effort to calculate the relative species richness of our study sites. Lastly, we explore how closely observed patterns of relative species richness of Ugandan forests are correlated with a suite of simple environmental variables. We find that fully 75% of the variance in our estimate of fern diversity can be predicted from just two measures: soil fertility (scored as C/N ratio, itself related to rainfall); and distance from the nearest putative Pleistocene refugium.
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