Patterns of species richness in dry grassland patches in an agricultural landscape

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Abstract

Eighty-five patches of semi-natural grassland of varying size scattered in a agricultural landscape were investigated for their flora of vascular plants. Relationships between species richness and patch area, spatial isolation and local habitat conditions including heterogeneity were examined. Differences between single species and among groups of species defined by life-history traits were also investigated.

Area was shown to be an important determinant of species richness irrespective of habitat heterogeneity. Isolation in space and habitat heterogeneity also play significant roles. These results are consistent with results from a multitude of studies on fragments of ancient deciduous woodland in northern Europe, They are, however, contradictory to results from previous studies in grasslands within the same region. Seed mass and dispersal syndrome were poor predictors of the degree to which the species were affected by isolation of grassland patches. Seed mass deviation from community median could explain a small percentage of the variation in regional abundance. Logistic regression on species occurrences showed that few species are associated with large patches, and less than half seem to avoid isolated patches.

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