Community Ecology

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 121–130 | Cite as

Scale dependency of species composition and environmental variables in the strata of a deciduous forest

  • S. Chandy
  • D. J. GibsonEmail author


We conducted a field study to determine whether species composition and environmental relationships were scale dependent among the strata of a temperate deciduous forest. We compiled tree basal area, woody understory density, field layer cover and three environmental variables from 378 permanent plots in ten 7 – 386 ha sites in the 294,455 ha Shawnee National Forest, southern Illinois, USA. The effect of changing sample foci (area of inference) without changing the extent (geographic space) on the relationship between species composition and environmental factors was quantified using Non-metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) and Procrustes analysis separately for each stratum. Species composition-environment relationships showed a separation of sites based on their geographic location and bedrock. Species data collected from these heterogeneous and hierarchically structured habitats across scales exhibited varying degree of specialization depending on the habitat. NMDS showed that the species composition-environmental relationships were dependent on the sample foci and stratum investigated with the number of environmental variables related to the vegetation ranging from two-three at the landscape scale and zero-three at the site scale. Procrustes analysis showed that the species composition of individual sites was most frequently related to the physiographic division that the site occurred in rather than the landscape (58%, 18 of 30 comparisons). This relationship was less frequent in the tree stratum than the lower strata. The results of this study are consistent with the hierarchical continuum concept in that the recognition of species-environment relationships depends upon the scale of analysis. From a management perspective it is important to consider these scale relationships to manage the physiographic divisions and the sites within them depending on conservation issues and the priorities of local land managers.


Forest strata NMDS Procrustes analysis Scaling relationships Species composition 



Diameter at Breast Height


Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling


Ozark Hills


Root Mean Square


Shaawnee Hills


Shawnee National Forest


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2008

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology, Center for EcologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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