Different numerical techniques were used to detect and describe the major ecological-biogeographical patterns of vascular plant distributions at the meso-scale level in a subarctic region in Finland. The distribution patterns of 231 native taxa in 362 1 km2 grid squares of the Kevo Nature Reserve were analysed by two-way indicator species analysis and detrended correspondence analysis, and were subsequently related to twenty-eight geographical, topographical, geological, and vegetational variables using simple discriminant functions and canonical correspondence analysis with associated Monte Carlo permutation tests.
The floristic variation detected reflects variations in environmental factors operative at the regional and local scales. No major broad-scale coherent geographical patterns were detected; instead, the spatial distribution of the grids with a similar floristic composition shows a scattered distribution. All the numerical techniques reveal a major gradient from alpine areas to lowland sites with rivers and rocky outcrops, and the most important explanatory variables for predicting the main floristic variation are all associated with altitude. The floristic patterns represented by the second ordination gradient mainly correlate with the abundance of mires. Partial ordinations indicate that both the geographical and geological variables explain relatively little of the species distributional patterns.
Although the meso-scale approach reveals much about the plant-environment relationships in the study area, the floristic variation appears to be determined mainly by fine-scale factors. In the most heterogeneous grids, the grid size used fails to detect accurately the ecological patterns of the species present.