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Protocols in ecological and environmental plant physiology

 

Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(1)

Do habitat fragmentation and fire influence variation of plant species composition, structure and diversity within three regional ecosystems on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia?

Rohan Etherington A and Alison Shapcott A B

A Genecology Research Centre, Faculty Science Health Education Engineering, University Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC 4558, Qld Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: ashapcot@usc.edu.au

Australian Journal of Botany 62(1) 36-47 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/BT13232
Submitted: 27 September 2013  Accepted: 5 March 2014   Published: 23 April 2014


 
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Abstract

Habitat fragmentation is considered to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Species richness is predicted to decrease with decreasing patch size and increasing isolation, and this has been shown in some ecosystems. However, few studies have specifically investigated the effects of fragmentation on specific vegetation types, or compared different vegetation types within the same region. In this study, we assessed the influence of habitat fragmentation and time since fire on the floristic composition, structure and diversity of three ecosystems with varying fire proneness within the Sunshine Coast region. This study found that the tall-open forest ecosystem (RE 12.9-10.14) had higher overall species richness within fixed sample areas used for this study than did either open forest (RE 12.5.3) or gallery rainforest (RE 12.3.1), because it was composed of species typical of each of these ecosystem types. Open forest species richness was found mostly in the lower stratum, whereas gallery rainforest diversity was found in the upper stratum. Species richness decreased with increasing isolation in the open forest ecosystem where seeds are mostly abiotically dispersed. However, this study did not find strong evidence for reduced species richness within smaller patches in any ecosystem type studied; instead, finding species richness decreased with increasing patch size in the open forest ecosystem. Overall, across ecosystems, time since fire affected vegetation structure, but in fire-prone ecosystems, time since fire was not a determinant of species richness within the sites studied.

Additional keywords: diversity, functional groups, fire, isolation, open forest, patch size, rainforest.


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