Modelling floristic species richness on a regional scale: a case study in Switzerland
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In this paper a multivariate linear regression model is proposed for predicting and mapping regional species richness in areas below the timberline according to environmental variables. The data used in setting up the model were derived from a floristic inventory. Using a stepwise regression technique, five environmental variables were found to explain 48.9% of the variability in the total number of plant species: namely temperature range, proximity to a big river or lake, threshold of minimum annual precipitation, amount of calcareous rock outcrops and number of soil types. A considerable part of the unexplained variability is thought to have been influenced by variations in the quality of the botanical inventory. These results show the importance of systematic floristic sampling in addition to conventional inventories when using floristic data as a basis in nature conservation. Nevertheless it is still possible to interpret the resulting diversity patterns ecologically. Regional species richness in Switzerland appears to be a function of: (i) environmental heterogeneity; (ii) threshold values of minimum precipitation; and (iii) presence of calcareous rock outcrops. According to similar studies, environmental heterogeneity was the strongest determinant of total species richness. In contrast to some studies, high productivity decreased the number of species. Furthermore, the implications of this work for climate change scenarios are discussed.
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