Species Richness of Sclerophyll (Heathy) Plant Communities in Australia ̵2 the Influence of Overstorey Cover
RL Specht and A Specht
Australian Journal of Botany
37(4) 337 - 350
The species richness (number of vascular-plant species per unit area) of sclerophyll (heathy) plant communities is examined from south-east Queensland to south-west Western Australia. The species richness of communities of heathy open forest, heathy open scrub, dry heathland and wet heathland is consist- ently similar throughout southern Australia and decreases from dry heathland (on laterite, coastal and inland localities) to heathy open forest, heathy open scrub and wet heathland.
Investigation of related microcommunities at Cooloola, Stradbroke Island, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Wilsons Promontory indicates that species richness decreases linearly as overstorey cover increases. In post-fire succession on Stradbroke Island heathy woodland and Dark Island heathland, species richness declines linearly as overstorey cover increases during the regeneration of the community. The appli- cation of limiting fertiliser to Stradbroke Island heathy woodland and Dark Island heathland increases the rate of development of overstorey cover, with a simultaneous decrease in species richness. Species richness of the understorey strata of plant communities appears to be inversely related to the rate of development of foliage projective cover in the overstorey. If an environmental or biotic factor inhibits or retards the development of overstorey cover, the understorey increases in species richness.
Conversely, if any environmental or biotic factor accelerates the development of overstorey cover, the understorey species show a reduction in species richness.
Full text doi:10.1071/BT9890337
© CSIRO 1989