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Factors affecting plant species composition of hedgerows: relative importance and hierarchy

Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology

Abstract

Although there has been a clear quantitative and qualitative decline in traditional hedgerow network landscapes during last century, hedgerows are crucial for the conservation of rural biodiversity, functioning as an important habitat, refuge and corridor for numerous species. To safeguard this conservation function, insight in the basic organizing principles of hedgerow plant communities is needed. The vegetation composition of 511 individual hedgerows situated within an ancient hedgerow network landscape in Flanders, Belgium was recorded, in combination with a wide range of explanatory variables, including a selection of spatial variables. Non-parametric statistics in combination with multivariate data analysis techniques were used to study the effect of individual explanatory variables. Next, variables were grouped in five distinct subsets and the relative importance of these variable groups was assessed by two related variation partitioning techniques, partial regression and partial canonical correspondence analysis, taking into account explicitly the existence of intercorrelations between variables of different factor groups. Most explanatory variables affected significantly hedgerow species richness and composition. Multivariate analysis showed that, besides adjacent land use, hedgerow management, soil conditions, hedgerow type and origin, the role of other factors such as hedge dimensions, intactness, etc., could certainly not be neglected. Furthermore, both methods revealed the same overall ranking of the five distinct factor groups. Besides a predominant impact of abiotic environmental conditions, it was found that management variables and structural aspects have a relatively larger influence on the distribution of plant species in hedgerows than their historical background or spatial configuration. (C) 2004 Elsevier SAS. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Deckers, B; Hermy, M; Muys, B

Journal: Acta Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology

Year: 2004

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