Plant Ecology

, Volume 174, Issue 1, pp 119–135 | Cite as

Impacts of land use on riparian forest along an urban – rural gradient in southern Manitoba

  • S.F. Moffatt
  • S.M. McLachlan
  • N.C. Kenkel


Extensive landscape modification by humans has led to the fragmentation of riparian forests across North America. We compared the vegetation of extant riparian forest along an urban-rural disturbance gradient. In 1999, twenty-five sites along Assiniboine River in Manitoba, Canada were categorized according to land use: urban, suburban, high intensity rural, low intensity rural, and relatively high quality reference forest. Differences in herbaceous, shrub, and tree species composition and diversity were related to the proportion of surrounding land use, forest patch size, connectivity, and area:perimeter ratio. Urban riparian forests were more disturbed and isolated. They were smaller and characterized by drier, more alkaline soils. Moreover, they had significantly lower native and overall understorey species diversity, and had a higher proportion of exotics including Solanum dulcamara and Hesperis matronalis. Suburban forests were less disturbed, faced greater development pressure, and had sandier soils. Although suburban understorey diversity was similar to that of rural forests, suburban sites had a higher proportion of exotic species, especially escaped horticultural and invasive species including Caragana arborescens and Rhamnus cathartica. Reference sites were relatively large and exhibited greater connectivity, but there was little difference in species composition and diversity among high intensity rural, low intensity rural, and reference sites. These site types were less disturbed than either urban or suburban forests, and reference sites were characterized by hydrophilic species including Scirpus fluviatilis and Carex aquatilis. Our results suggest that landscape measures of disturbance, and related changes in environment, may be confidently used to assess impacts of land use on vegetation along urban-rural gradients.

Agriculture Disturbance Exotic species Fragmentation Landscape Multivariate analysis Urbanisation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • S.F. Moffatt
    • 1
  • S.M. McLachlan
    • 1
    • 2
  • N.C. Kenkel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipeg, MB. R3T 2N2
  2. 2.Environment and GeographyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipeg, MB. R3T 2N2

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