Regional context affects native and alien plant species richness across habitat types




How does large-scale context affect native and alien species richness across different habitat types?


Catalonia, NE Spain.


We analysed a set of 5309 vegetation plots from the BDBC (Biodiversity Data Bank of Catalonia) database, organized following the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) 10 km × 10 km grid. Plots were assigned to the first or second hierarchy of EUNIS (European Nature Information System) habitat classification. For each plot, the number of native plants (including archaeophytes, i.e. alien plants introduced before 1500 ad) and neophytes (alien plants introduced after 1500 ad) was recorded. Neophytes were classified according their Raunkiaer's life form. For each UTM we selected eight predictors related to land cover composition, anthropogenic context and climate. The association of neophyte and native species richness with these predictor variables was explored by generalized linear mixed models for each terrestrial habitat type after controlling for plot area.


A total of 77 different neophyte species were found distributed among the eight habitat types with fitted models. Minimum adequate models on both neophyte and native species richness were highly variable. In general, native species richness responded more to climatic variables, while neophyte species richness was associated more with human landscape factors such as distance to main roads and, secondarily, cropland cover.


Context factors defined on a large scale (10 km) have a significant effect on local native and neophyte species richness for many habitat types in Catalonia. Our results highlight the major influence of climatic context on native species richness and the influence of human landscape context on neophyte species richness in the study region. The inconsistency of results between habitat types suggests that this large-scale effect might be highly idiosyncratic and dependent on species ecology and life form.