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The complexity of forest borders determines the understory vegetation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7219-4359
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.
2017 (English)In: Applied Vegetation Science, ISSN 1402-2001, E-ISSN 1654-109XArticle in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Questions

What are the most important drivers of plant species richness (γ-diversity) and species turnover (β-diversity) in the field layer of a forest edge? Does the tree and shrub species richness structure and complexity affect the richness of forest and grassland specialist species?

Location

South-eastern Sweden.

Methods

We sampled 50 forest edges with different levels of structural complexity in agricultural landscapes. In each border we recorded trees, shrubs and herb layer species in a 50 m transect parallel with the forest. We investigated species composition and species turnover in relationship to the proportions of gaps the border, the diversity of trees and shrubs and distance to semi-natural grasslands.

Results

Total plant species richness in the field layer was mainly explained by the proportion of gaps to areas with full canopy cover, and tree diversity. Increasing number of gaps promoted higher diversity of grassland specialist species within the field layer, resulting in open forest borders with the highest overall species richness. Gaps did however have a negative impact on forest species richness. Conversely, increasing forest species richness was positively related to tree diversity but number of grassland specialist species was negatively affected by tree diversity.

Conclusions

Managing forest borders, and therefore increasing the area of semi-open habitats in fragmented agricultural landscapes, gives future opportunities to create a network of suitable habitats for both grassland and deciduous forest specialist species. Such measures therefore have the potential to increase functional connectivity and support dispersal of species in homogeneous forest/agriculture landscapes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Alpha-diversity, Beta-diversity, Canopy cover, Forest border, Forest management, Forest specialist species, Gamma-diversity, Grassland specialist species, Plant diversity, Species richness, Remnant habitat, Structural heterogeneity
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148648DOI: 10.1111/avsc.12344OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-148648DiVA: diva2:1154521
Available from: 2017-11-02 Created: 2017-11-02 Last updated: 2017-11-07
In thesis
1. Small remnant habitats: Important structures in fragmented landscapes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Small remnant habitats: Important structures in fragmented landscapes
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The world-wide intensification of agriculture has led to a decline in species richness due to land use change, isolation, and fragmentation of natural and semi-natural habitats in agricultural and forestry landscapes. As a consequence, there is a current landscape management focus on the importance of green infrastructure to mitigate biodiversity decline and preserve ecosystem functions e.g. pollination services and pest control. Even though intensification in agriculture has been ongoing for several hundreds of years, remnant habitats from earlier management practices may still be remaining with a surprisingly high plant richness. Preserving these habitats could help conserving plant species richness in agricultural landscapes, as well as other organisms that are dependent on plants for food and shelter.

In this thesis I focus on two small remnant habitats; midfield islets and borders between managed forest and crop field in southeastern Sweden. In the past, both habitats were included in the grazing system and therefore often still have remnant population of grassland specialist species left today. I have used these two remnant habitats as model habitats to investigate the effect of landscape factors and local factors on species richness of plants, flower morphologies and plants with fleshy fruits. Additively, I analysed the effect of surrounding landscape and local openness on the functions; pollination success, biological pest control of aphids and seed predation on midfield islets.

One of my studies showed that spatial distribution and size of the habitat affected plant species richness. Larger habitat size and higher connectivity between habitats increased species richness of plants in the habitats. Openness of the habitats was shown to be an important factor to increase species richness and richness of flower morphologies, both on midfield islets and in forest borders. Even though midfield islets had the highest species and morphology richness, both habitat types are needed for habitat complementary as forest borders have more plants with fleshy fruits and a higher richness of plant species that flowers in spring/early summer. It was also shown that a more complex forest border, not just with gaps in the canopy, but also with high variation in tree stem sizes increases plant species richness in the field layer. The conclusion is that by managing small remnant habitats to remain or become more semi-open and complex in their structure, would increase species richness of plants, grassland specialist species, and flower morphologies. It would also increase some ecosystem functions as seed predation and biologic pest control of aphids are more effective close to trees. If both midfield islets and forest borders would be managed to be semi-open, the area and connectivity of semi-open habitat would increase in the agricultural landscape, which may also improve pollination success as the connectivity between populations has a possibility to increase. Grassland specialist species are clearly abundant in the small remnant habitats. As the decline of semi-natural grasslands is causing a decline in grassland specialists’ species, not only plants, I recommend that small remnant habitats are included in conservation and management plans and strategies to improve habitat availability and connectivity for grassland species in agricultural landscapes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, 2017
Series
Dissertations from the Department of Physical Geography, ISSN 1653-7211 ; 70
Keyword
Alpha-diversity, Beta-diversity, Biological pest control, Canopy cover, Connectivity, Ecosystem function, Fleshy fruits, Forest edge, Forest management, Forest specialist species, Fragmentation, Functional diversity, Gamma-diversity, Grassland specialist species, Green infrastructure, Habitat amount hypothesis, Island biogeography, Midfield islets, Plant diversity, Plant-pollinator interaction, Pollination, Remnant habitat, Seed predation, Small habitats, Species richness, Structural heterogeneity
National Category
Ecology Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-148653 (URN)978-91-7797-057-6 (ISBN)978-91-7797-058-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-12-20, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Research funder Ekoklim. Project:4339602.

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-11-27 Created: 2017-11-03 Last updated: 2017-11-22Bibliographically approved

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