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The influence of forest/grassland proportion on the species composition, diversity and natural values of an eastern Austrian forest-steppe

Abstract

Eastern Austrian forest-steppe remnants are extremey important both from conservation and a scientific perspective, yet case studies integrating the examination of the grassland and the forest components are relatively scarce. Consequently, the knowledge on how the pattern of forested vs. non-forested patches influences species composition and diversity remains rather limited. In this study, we compared three sites with different forest/grassland proportions: grassland with a low canopy cover, a mosaic area with alternating forest and grassland habitats, and a forest with some canopy gaps. Our aim was to find out which one of them is the best for conservation purposes. We found that the grassland and the mosaic area had a similar composition, while the forested one was distinct from them. The mosaic vegetation seemed to be the most species rich, also hosting a high number of red-listed species. Beside forest-related and grassland-related species, the mosaic plot also supported some edge-related plants. We conclude that the preservation of mosaic-like forest- grassland habitats is the most favorable for conservation aims. Nevertheless, several species, among them some red-listed ones, were clearly linked either to the forest or to the grassland plot. Therefore, even though mosaics deserve a special attention, open grasslands and xeric forests should also be preserved.

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Correspondence to L. Erdős.

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Erdős, L., Tölgyesi, C., Bátori, Z. et al. The influence of forest/grassland proportion on the species composition, diversity and natural values of an eastern Austrian forest-steppe. Russ J Ecol 48, 350–357 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1134/S1067413617040063

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Keywords

  • habitat heterogeneity
  • spatial pattern
  • xeric communities
  • conservation