Ecological correlates of range structure in rare and scarce British plants

Authors

  • MICHAEL J. O. POCOCK,

    1. Earth & Biosphere Institute, Institute for Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK, and
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  • STEPHEN HARTLEY,

    1. Earth & Biosphere Institute, Institute for Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK, and
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      School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand;
  • MARK G. TELFER,

    1. Biological Records Centre, CEH Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK
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      §RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK.
  • CHRISTOPHER D. PRESTON,

    1. Biological Records Centre, CEH Monks Wood, Abbots Ripton, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE28 2LS, UK
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  • WILLIAM E. KUNIN

    1. Earth & Biosphere Institute, Institute for Integrative and Comparative Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK, and
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  • Present addresses: School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand; §RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 2DL, UK.

Present address and correspondence: Michael J.O. Pocock, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK (fax +44 (0)117 9257374; e-mail michael.pocock@bristol.ac.uk).

Summary

  • 1The distribution patterns of 391 rare and scarce British plants (species recorded in 100 or fewer 10 × 10 km squares) were characterized by their distributional area (area of occupancy at 1-km scale: AOO1) and levels of aggregation (as reflected in fractal dimensions measured across two scales: D1−10 and D10−100).
  • 2Eighteen plant traits were tested for relationships to AOO, and to fractal dimension while controlling for AOO. These included both directly heritable traits (e.g. life-form) and emergent properties that are, at most, indirectly heritable (e.g. typical local density). The latter set included an index of net distributional change and an index of range dynamism.
  • 3Only two traits, habitat preference and local abundance, were significantly related to AOO1, but about half were associated with fractal dimension.
  • 4Relatively aggregated fine-scale distributions (high D1−10) were related to high local abundance, lack of specialized, long-distance dispersal mechanisms, habitat preference and an increasing range size with relatively few local extinctions (i.e. a positive index of change with low dynamism).
  • 5Relatively aggregated coarse-scale distributions (high D10−100) were related to the use of insect pollinators, obligate outcrossing, habitat preference and relatively stable ranges (low dynamism).
  • 6Multivariate analyses of subsets of conceptually related variables showed that few variables interacted to affect distributional variables.
  • 7A highly significant negative relationship between dynamism and fractal dimension appears to be driven primarily by high rates of local extinction, leading to relatively scattered, diffuse range structures. Furthermore, it suggests that recent population trends may be inferred from snapshots of contemporary distribution patterns.
  • 8The role and interpretation of phylogenetically informed analyses in studies such as this are debatable. However, we found similar relationships in both phylogenetically informed and conventional analyses for all variables except pollination vector (a strongly conserved trait).
  • 9The spatial pattern of plant species distributions is associated with a range of ecological traits, particularly those describing past changes in distribution. The analysis of distribution patterns therefore has the potential to inform future conservation effort.

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