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Keywords:

  • dry grassland;
  • France;
  • habitat relationships;
  • heterogeneity;
  • Provence;
  • snail diversity;
  • terrestrial molluscs

Abstract

The aim of the study was to assess the impact of a pastoral management chosen to limit the recent expansion of woodland on a Mediterranean mountain on land snail diversity. An additional aim was to acquire quantitative data that could be used to identify pasture environments from Holocene molluscan assemblages. The work was undertaken at the Luberon mountain, Provence, south of France. We used a stratified quantitative sampling scheme according to altitude and vegetation structure. A total of 80 sites were studied. Large species were collected within a 5 × 5-m plot. Small species were extracted from litter and surface soil. A standard procedure for site description was used based on 35 environmental variables. Grazing pressure was estimated according to the impact of grazing on the herb layer. Correspondence analysis and canonical correspondence analysis were performed using canoco 4.0 software. The distribution of land snails is related to altitude and grazing intensity. Large patches of grazed grassland harbour open country and mountain snail species. Thermophilic open ground species are located in grazed grasslands at lower altitude. Shade-loving species are present in ungrazed scrublands or in small clearings on the upper slopes. The lowest species richness, diversity and equitability are associated with large patches of grazed grassland, the presence of a continuous cover of short grass reinforcing this negative impact on snail diversity. Our study is consistent with similar works on land snails or other invertebrates but discordant with vegetation studies. A homogeneous grazed herb layer significantly reduces snail diversity and abundance. Heterogeneity seems to favour snail diversity both at the local and landscape scales. However, sheep grazing contributes to the expansion of suitable habitats for rare snail species.