What determines disturbance-productivity-diversity relationships? The effect of scale, species and environment on richness patterns in an Australian woodland


  • Kimberly G. Allcock,

  • David S. Hik

K. G. Allcock, Dept of Environmental and Resource Sciences, Univ. Nevada, Reno, 1000 Valley Rd, M5186 Reno, NV 89512, USA. – D. S. Hik, Dept of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9 Canada (allcock@canbr.unr.edu).


Much of the observed variation in relationships between diversity and disturbance or productivity may be attributed to scale, species characteristics, or environment. We used exclusion fences to create gradients of grazing (by native and introduced herbivores), cover, and standing crop in temperate Eucalypt woodlands. We investigated patterns of native, exotic, and total plant species richness at two scales (1 m2 and 625 m2). Richness patterns were similar at both scales, though species richness at 1m2 was more strongly affected by our grazing treatments. Season and rainfall explained more variation in richness than did surrogate measures of productivity or disturbance by herbivores. The richness-herbivory relationship depended strongly on rainfall, season, and species origin, and altering these factors produced the entire range of observed diversity-disturbance relationships. Richness-biomass and richness-cover relationships were consistently hump-shaped, and related to species origin with native richness negatively related and exotic richness positively related. The ability of weedy annuals to pre-empt space after death may have contributed to the observed unimodal responses.