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Effects of ecological, landscape and management factors on plant species composition, biodiversity and forage value in Alpine meadows

Authors


Correspondence to: F. Gusmeroli, Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori, via Valeriana 32, I-23100 Sondrio, Italy.

E-mail: fausto.gusmeroli@provincia.so.it

Abstract

Due to decades of loss of grassland diversity across Europe, there is a need to identify factors affecting species composition and diversity in managed meadows. The aim of the current study was to assess how ecological, landscape and management factors may affect plant species composition, biodiversity and forage value in Alpine hay meadows. Species composition, Shannon index and forage value were obtained from phytosociological relevés. Twenty explanatory variables were selected from a set of ecological, landscape and management factors. Their effects on plant species composition, Shannon index and forage value were analysed by applying the variation partitioning approach. Plant species composition was related to sixteen factors, explaining 35·6% of the variability. Shannon index and forage value were related to eleven factors, explaining 47·8 and 40·8% of their total variation respectively. Ecological factors were the main set explaining species composition and diversity, whereas none of the three individual groups of factors (ecological, landscape, management) significantly explained variability within forage value. Overall, the effects of the three groups of factors accounted for 70% of the total variability in plant species composition, but less than half that of Shannon index and of forage value.

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