Aim The aim of our study was to reveal relationships between richness patterns of native vs. alien plant species and spatial heterogeneity across varying landscape patterns at a regional scale.
Location The study was carried out in the administrative district of Dessau (Germany), covering around 4000 km2.
Methods Data on plant distribution of the German vascular flora available in grid cells covering 5′ longitude and 3′ latitude (c. 32 km2) were divided into three status groups: native plants, archaeophytes (pre 1500 AD aliens) and neophytes (post 1500 AD aliens). Land use and abiotic data layers were intersected with 125 grid cells comprising the selected area. Using novel landscape ecological methods, we calculated 38 indices of landscape composition and configuration for each grid cell. Principal components analysis (PCA) with a set of 29 selected, low correlated landscape indices was followed by multiple linear regression analysis.
Results PCA reduced 29 indices to eight principal components (PCs) that explained 80% cumulative variance. Multiple linear regression analysis was highly significant and explained 41% to 60% variance in plant species distribution (adjusted R2) with three significant PCs (tested for spatial autocorrelation) expressing moderate to high disturbance levels and high spatial heterogeneity. Comparing the significance of the PCs for the species groups, native plant species richness is most strongly associated with riverine ecosystems, followed by urban ecosystems, and then small-scale rural ecosystems. Archaeophyte and neophyte richness are most strongly associated with urban ecosystems, followed by small-scale rural ecosystems and riverine ecosystems for archaeophytes, and riverine ecosystems and small-scale rural ecosystems for neophytes.
Main conclusions Our overall results suggest that species richness of native and alien plants increases with moderate levels of natural and/or anthropogenic disturbances, coupled with high levels of habitat and structural heterogeneity in urban, riverine, and small-scale rural ecosystems. Despite differences in the order of relevance of PCs for the three plant groups, we conclude that at the regional scale species richness patterns of native plants as well as alien plants are promoted by similar factors.