Questions: What is the relative importance of landscape variables compared to habitat quality variables in determining species composition in floodplain forests across different physiographic areas? How do species composition and species traits relate to effects of particular landscape variables? Do lowland and mountain areas differ in effects of landscape variables on species composition?
Location: Southern Czech Republic.
Methods: A total of 240 vegetation relevés of floodplain forests with measured site conditions were recorded across six physiographic areas. I tested how physiographic area, habitat quality variables and landscape variables such as current land-cover categories, forest continuity, forest size and urbanization influenced plant species composition. I also compared how mountain and lowland areas differ in terms of the relative importance of these variables. To determine how landscape configuration affects the distribution of species traits, relationships of traits and species affinity with landscape variables were tested.
Results: Among landscape variables, forest continuity, landscape forest cover and distance to nearest settlement altered the vegetation. These variables also influenced the distributions of species traits, i.e. life forms, life strategies, affinity to forest, dispersal modes, seed characteristics, flooding tolerance and Ellenberg indicator values for nitrogen, light, moisture and soil reaction. Nevertheless, physiographic area and habitat quality variables explained more variation in species composition. Landscape variables were more important in lowland areas. Forest continuity affected species composition only in lowlands.
Conclusions: Although habitat quality and physiographic area explained more vegetation variability, landscape configuration was also a key factor influencing species composition and distribution of species traits. However, the results are dependent on forest geographical location, with lowland forests being more influenced by landscape variables compared to mountain forests.