Online-Ressource (PDF-Datei: 6661 KB, III, 171 S.)
Ill., graph. Darst.
The fragmentation of natural habitat caused by anthropogenic land use changes is one of the main drivers of the current rapid loss of biodiversity. In face of this threat, ecological research needs to provide predictions of communities' responses to fragmentation as a prerequisite for the effective mitigation of further biodiversity loss. However, predictions of communities' responses to fragmentation require a thorough understanding of ecological processes, such as species dispersal and persistence. Therefore, this thesis seeks an improved understanding of community dynamics in fragmented landscapes. In order to approach this overall aim, I identified key questions on the response of plant diversity and plant functional traits to variations in species' dispersal capability, habitat fragmentation and local environmental conditions. All questions were addressed using spatially explicit simulations or statistical models. In chapter 2, I addressed scale-dependent relationships between dispersal capability and species diversity using a grid-based neutral model. I found that the ratio of survey area to landscape size is an important determinant of scale-dependent dispersal-diversity relationships. With small ratios, the model predicted increasing dispersal-diversity relationships, while decreasing dispersal-diversity relationships emerged, when the ratio approached one, i.e. when the survey area approached the landscape size. For intermediate ratios, I found a U-shaped pattern that has not been reported before. With this study, I unified and extended previous work on dispersal-diversity relationships. In chapter 3, I assessed the type of regional plant community dynamics for the study area in the Southern Judean Lowlands (SJL). For this purpose, I parameterised a multi-species incidence-function model (IFM) with vegetation data using approximate Bayesian computation (ABC). I found that the type of regional plant community dynamics in the SJL is best characterized as a set of isolated “island communities” with very low connectivity between local communities. Model predictions indicated a significant extinction debt with 33% - 60% of all species going extinct within 1000 years. In general, this study introduces a novel approach for combining a spatially explicit simulation model with field data from species-rich communities. In chapter 4, I first analysed, if plant functional traits in the SJL indicate trait convergence by habitat filtering and trait divergence by interspecific competition, as predicted by community assembly theory. Second, I assessed the interactive effects of fragmentation and the south-north precipitation gradient in the SJL on community-mean plant traits. I found clear evidence for trait convergence, but the evidence for trait divergence fundamentally depended on the chosen null-model. All community-mean traits were significantly associated with the precipitation gradient in the SJL. The trait associations with fragmentation indices (patch size and connectivity) were generally weaker, but statistically significant for all traits. Specific leaf area (SLA) and plant height were consistently associated with fragmentation indices along the precipitation gradient. In contrast, seed mass and seed number were interactively influenced by fragmentation and precipitation. In general, this study provides the first analysis of the interactive effects of climate and fragmentation on plant functional traits. Overall, I conclude that the spatially explicit perspective adopted in this thesis is crucial for a thorough understanding of plant community dynamics in fragmented landscapes. The finding of contrasting responses of local diversity to variations in dispersal capability stresses the importance of considering the diversity and composition of the metacommunity, prior to implementing conservation measures that aim at increased habitat connectivity. The model predictions derived with the IFM highlight the importance of additional natural habitat for the mitigation of future species extinctions. In general, the approach of combining a spatially explicit IFM with extensive species occupancy data provides a novel and promising tool to assess the consequences of different management scenarios. The analysis of plant functional traits in the SJL points to important knowledge gaps in community assembly theory with respect to the simultaneous consequences of habitat filtering and competition. In particular, it demonstrates the importance of investigating the synergistic consequences of fragmentation, climate change and land use change on plant communities. I suggest that the integration of plant functional traits and of species interactions into spatially explicit, dynamic simulation models offers a promising approach, which will further improve our understanding of plant communities and our ability to predict their dynamics in fragmented and changing landscapes.
@Potsdam, Univ., Diss., 2013
Druckausg. May, Felix: Spatial models of plant diversity and plant functional traits