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Do forest-dwelling plant species disperse along landscape corridors?

Plant Ecology

Abstract

Woody corridors in fragmented landscapes have been proposed as alternative habitats for forest plants, but the great variation in species-specific responses blurs the overall assessment. The aim of this study was to estimate the dispersal success of forest-dwelling plants from a stand into and along an attached woody corridor, and to explain the observed patterns from the point of view of species' dispersal traits and corridor properties. We sampled 47 forest-corridor transects in the agricultural landscapes of southeastern Estonia. Regionally common forest-dwelling species (observed in at least 10 % of seed-source forests) were classified on the basis of their ecological response profile-forest-restricted species (F-type) and forest-dwelling generalists (G-type). Species richness and the proportion of F-type species decreased sharply from the seed-source forest core to the forest edge and to the first 10-15 m of the corridor, while G-type species richness remained constant throughout the transect. Corridor structure had a species-specific effect-F species were promoted by old (a parts per thousand yen50 years) and wide (a parts per thousand yen10 m) corridors, while G species were supported by young and narrow corridors with ditch-related soil disturbances. Moderate shade (canopy cover < 75 %) was optimal for all forest-dwelling species. Large dispersule weight, and not seed weight, dispersal vector or Ellenberg's indicator values, was the trait that differentiated F species from G species. We conclude that most woody corridors are only dispersal stepping-stone habitats for habitat generalist species, and not for specialists. Only century old corridors can relieve the dispersal limitation of forest-restricted species.

Author(s): Liira, J; Paal, T

Journal: Plant Ecology

Year: 2013

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