Leutner, B; Steinbauer, M; Müller, CM; Früh, AJ; Irl, S; Jentsch, A; Beierkuhnlein, C: Mosses Like It Rough - Growth Form Specific Responses of Mosses, Herbaceous and Woody Plants to Micro-Relief Heterogeneity, Diversity, 4, 59-73 (2012), doi:10.3390/d4010059 [Link]

Micro-relief heterogeneity can lead to substantial variability in microclimate and hence niche opportunities on small scales. We explored the relationship between plant species richness and small-scale heterogeneity of micro-relief on the subtropical island of La Palma, Canary Islands. Overall, we sampled 40 plots in laurel and pine forests at four altitudinal bands. Species richness was recorded separately for various growth forms (i.e. mosses, herbaceous and woody plants). Site conditions such as altitude, slope, aspect and tree density were measured. Micro-relief heterogeneity was characterized by surface structure and a subsequently derived surface heterogeneity index. The effect of micro-relief heterogeneity on species richness was analysed by means of linear mixed effect models and variance partitioning. Effects of micro-relief heterogeneity on species richness varied considerably between growth forms. While moss richness was affected significantly by micro-relief heterogeneity, herbaceous and woody plants richness responded mainly to larger-scale site conditions such as aspect and tree density. Our results stress the importance of small-scale relief heterogeneity for the explanation of spatial patterns of species richness. This poses new challenges as small-scale heterogeneity is largely underrepresented, e.g. with regard to its application in species distribution models.


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