Predicting bryophyte diversity in grassland and eucalypt-dominated remnants in subhumid Tasmania


*Emma J. Pharo, Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 78, Hobart, Tasmania 7005, Australia.


Aim  To determine the environmental factors associated with bryophyte diversity in remnants in a fragmented, agricultural landscape.

Location  Eighty-two remnants of tussock grassland, eucalypt woodland and eucalypt forest in the subhumid Midlands region of Tasmania, Australia.

Methods  Remnants were surveyed for bryophytes and predictor variables, such as vascular plant cover, climate, and topography. Management histories for each remnant were compiled using both site observation and landowner surveys. Bryophyte cover, richness, and composition were related to the independent variables using simple correlation and general linear models.

Results  We found weak relationships between the dependent variables and the fragmentation variables (remnant area, remnant perimeter to area ratio, distance to nearest remnant, distance to nearest larger remnant, and remnant age). Instead, climatic variables were important in predicting bryophytes, in particular those affecting humidity (minimum temperature of the coldest month, precipitation). Despite extensive sheep grazing in this landscape, grazing was not correlated with bryophyte diversity. Bryophyte diversity was not explained by vascular plant richness and was only weakly explained by composition, but was predicted by the cover of vascular plants. There was greater bryophyte cover and richness and different composition where the cover of native vascular plants was lower.

Main conclusions  The implications of our results are that all remnants, regardless of area, age and isolation, appear to be valuable for bryophyte conservation in this highly altered landscape. Our results also suggest that the cover of the vascular plant community, rather than its diversity, holds promise as a guide to bryophyte diversity. Bryophyte composition was similar between sites and a focus on the most species-rich sites may be the best conservation strategy in this ecosystem.