Patterns of variation in plant diversity vary over different spatial levels in seasonal coastal wetlands
Aim: To quantify the responses of alpha and beta diversity to multivariate gradients, incorporating variation in environmental and management variability in coastal dune slacks. Location: United Kingdom dune slacks.
Methods: Plant community composition, plant nutrient status and soil characteristics were measured for 164 quadrats in 41 dune slacks across 12 coastal sand dune systems. Data were collated on climate and atmospheric deposition. Hydrological regimes at daily resolution were modelled and calibrated using daily-to-monthly site measurements, from which we calculated quadrat-level hydrological metrics. Alpha diversity (richness, Shannon diversity and Pielou's evenness) metrics and beta diversity (turnover and nestedness) for species and genera were calculated across three spatial levels from sand dune system (highest) to dune slack to quadrat (lowest).
Results: Diversity patterns depended on the spatial and taxonomic level considered. At smaller spatial levels (between dune slacks and between quadrats), alpha and beta diversity varied along gradients driven by soil characteristics, water table depth and atmospheric deposition. At larger spatial levels (between sand dune systems), patterns of beta diversity were a consequence of plant nutrient status. There was little variability in alpha diversity along this same gradient, with only small changes in Pielou's species evenness. Patterns at a coarser taxonomic level (genus) mirrored those at the species level.
Main conclusion: We show that patterns of variation in plant diversity are dependent on the spatial level considered, but taxonomic level made little difference in understanding these patterns. Therefore, if we do not consider patterns across different spatial levels, important environmental and management drivers could be missed. The high biodiversity value and degree of threat to these European protected habitats makes such understanding invaluable for their conservation.
The Central England NERC Training Alliance
- Social Sciences and Humanities
- Geography and Environment
Published inDiversity and Distributions
Pages1875 - 1890
- VoR (Version of Record)
Rights holder© The Authors
Publisher statementThis is an Open Access article published by Wiley under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/