Regional-scale vegetation heterogeneity in northeastern Patagonia: Environmental and spatial components

Abstract

Our aim was to describe vegetation heterogeneity at a regional scale in northeastern Patagonia and to identify the environmental variables associated to it. The study area encompasses 13 144 km2 and is characterized by a mixture of species typical of Patagonian steppes and Monte Desert. We performed 48 vegetation relevés, which were randomly assigned to a training set and to a validation set (32 and 16 relevés, respectively). Training set was subjected to cluster analysis, which allowed the identification of two plant communities one related to Patagonian steppes and another to the Monte desert. We derived 3 attributes of the seasonal curve of the NDVI as indicators of ecosystem function: the seasonal amplitude (SA), the date of the maximum (DOM), and the large seasonal integral (LSI). We explored the relationship between NDVI attributes and communities by classification tree analysis. LSI was the strongest predictor among NDVI attributes, separating both communities without misclassification errors. Patagonian steppes occupy areas with higher LSI. The partial RDA analysis explained 38.1% of total data variation, of which 16.5% was ascribed to environment, 7.9% to space, and 13.7% to spatial component of environment. Patagonian steppes are closer to the coast, in areas exhibiting higher annual precipitation and lower annual temperature range than Monte deserts. Our results indicate the occurrence of two plant communities in the study area and highlight the significance of climatic variables to explain their spatial distribution. As most scenarios of future climate predict greater annual thermal amplitude in the study area, the limit between both communities could be displaced eastward.

Abbreviations

CT:

Classification Tree

DEM:

Digital Elevation Model

DOM:

Date Of Maximum NDVI

IV:

Indicator Value

LSI:

Large Seasonal Integral of NDVI

MAT:

Mean Annual Temperature

NDVI:

Normalized Difference Vegetation Index

PCNM:

Principal Coordinates of Neighbor Matrices

PPT:

Precipitation

RDA:

Redundancy Analysis

SA:

Seasonal NDVI Amplitude

TEMP:

Temperature

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Correspondence to A. J. Bisigato.

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Nomenclature: Flora Argentina (http://www.floraargentina.edu.ar).

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Bisigato, A.J., Hardtke, L.A., del Valle, H.F. et al. Regional-scale vegetation heterogeneity in northeastern Patagonia: Environmental and spatial components. COMMUNITY ECOLOGY 17, 8–16 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1556/168.2016.17.1.2

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Keywords

  • Monte desert
  • Patagonian steppe
  • Precipitation
  • Spatial autocorrelation
  • Temperature

Nomenclature

  • Flora Argentina (http://www.floraargentina.edu.ar)