Spatial aspects of trait homogenization within the German flora


*Marten Winter, UFZ, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, D-06120 Halle (Saale), Germany. E-mail:


Aim  Biotic homogenization, the replacement of local biota by non-indigenous and locally expanding species, is among the major effects of species invasions. Almost all studies related to this topic are focused on the species level, on taxonomic homogenization. Homogenization effects on trait diversity (functional homogenization) may be very important for ecosystem functioning, but they are rarely analysed, especially not at different spatial scales within a single study. This paper aims to examine how the presence of alien species (species introduced since 1500 ad) affects the distribution of ploidy levels in the German flora at different spatial scales.

Location  Germany.

Methods  We used a resampling method and the Morisita–Horn dissimilarity index to calculate dissimilarities of ploidy level within and between alien and indigenous plants at three different spatial scales in Germany: (1) the entire country as one location, (2) between grid cells, and (3) within grid cells of a lattice covering Germany.

Results  We found a significant differentiation effect within grid cells of c. 130 km2, with alien plants increasing the variability of ploidy levels. The differentiation effect varies according to the scale used. At the coarsest scale (entire Germany), ploidy levels of alien plants tend to be more homogeneous in composition compared with those of native plants. At the intermediate scale (between grid cells), and even more pronounced at a small scale (within grid cells), ploidy levels are more heterogeneously distributed across Germany than those of native plant species.

Main conclusions  Homogenization of ploidy levels at a large scale (entire Germany) and differentiation at a small scale (within grid cells) is comparable with the patterns found in taxonomic homogenization analyses. This analysis is a first step towards understanding the impacts of plant invasions on a trait level. Differentiation and homogenization of ploidy levels might mirror the distribution of related ecological traits and therefore might have an impact on ecosystem functioning.