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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Chair of Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins

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Dengler, J: A flexible, multi-scale approach for standardised recording of plant species richness patterns., Ecological Indicators, 9, 1169-1178 (2009), doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2009.02.002
Key words: Biodiversity, Indicator, Landscape, Monitoring, Scale dependence, Species–area relationship
A sound monitoring of appropriate biodiversity indicators is necessary in order to assess the progress towards the internationally agreed target of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. However, existing monitoring schemes often do not address species richness as a key component of biodiversity directly or do so with insufficient methods. I provide an overview and assessment of the large variety of different sampling approaches for small-scale plant species richness. Major shortcomings of many of these are (i) non-uniform plot sizes or shapes; (ii) analysis of only one spatial scale despite the scale dependence of nearly all biodiversity parameters; (iii) lack of replication of smaller subplots; and (iv) exclusion of bryophytes and lichens despite their often large contribution to total plant diversity. Based on this review, I propose a new standardised sampling approach for plant diversity patterns at small scales that is applicable for a multitude of purposes and in any biome. In its basic variant, species composition is recorded on nested squares of 0.01 m2, 0.1 m2, 1 m2, 10 m2, and 100 m2, with all smaller subplots being replicated at least 3-fold and evenly spaced within the next larger plot. Not only terricolous vascular plants, but also bryophytes, lichens, macro-algae as well as non-terricolous taxa should be recorded with the any-part system, i.e. those plants are counted within a plot whose superficial parts reach over it. This approach can be used to assess plant diversity patterns (i) of individual plots of interest, (ii) along environmental gradients, (iii) within specific vegetation types, or (iv) for landscape sectors. In the latter case, the series of nested plots must be placed randomly or systematically, but irrespective of plot homogeneity. The proposed approach allows the calculation of many meaningful biodiversity indicators, while being well compatible with a range of other sampling schemes, but avoiding their shortcomings. As this approach is not very time-consuming in its basic variant, but can easily be extended for specific purposes, I suggest its use for any kind of biodiversity studies and particularly for monitoring.
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