Community Ecology

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 35–42 | Cite as

Are ecotone properties scale-dependent? A test from a Nothofagustreeline in southern New Zealand

  • C. J. Stowe
  • W. D. Kissling
  • R. Ohlemüller
  • J. B. WilsonEmail author


Species richness, the location of exotic species and heterogeneity (investigated via dissimilarity and via species-area relations) were investigated in relation to spatial scale, in an ecotone between Nothofagus forest and sub-alpine shrubland. The rate of change in ordination score as well as tree diameter and the dripline were used to locate the position of the ecotone. Patterns of species richness were largely scale-independent, with species richness lowest in the forest community, intermediate in the ecotone, highest a short distance into the shrubland, and lower again in the shrubland further from the ecotone. High richness just into the shrubland is attributed to the existence of a fine-scale spatial mosaic pattern of vegetation, though the spatial mass effect may have a role. Exotic species were absent in the forest, but occurred sparsely in the ecotone and in the shrubland, possibly with decreasing frequency away from the ecotone. Community pattern, expressed by species-based dissimilarity and species-area curves, also differed. The ecotone community was the most heterogeneous (indicated by higher dissimilarity values and a steeper species-area slope with higher Arrhenius z-values), with the forest the least heterogeneous and the shrubland intermediate. We conclude that z-values are inter-woven with both habitat and spatial scale, and that this argues against a universal relationship between species and area.


Boundary Dissimilarity Exotic species Heterogeneity Spatial grain Species-area relations Species richness 


Parsons et al. (1995) unless otherwise indicated 


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2003

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Authors and Affiliations

  • C. J. Stowe
    • 1
  • W. D. Kissling
    • 2
  • R. Ohlemüller
    • 1
  • J. B. Wilson
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Botany DepartmentUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Landscape Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, Botanical Institute and Botanical GardenUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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