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Factors affecting plant species distribution in hedgerows of southern Quebec

Biological Conservation


Woody linear features of farmlands have received much attention as pools of diversity in European countries, but they have, in comparison, been little considered in eastern North American ecological studies. Here, we evaluate the relative contribution of environmental conditions, history of management practices within hedgerows, and adjacent land-use on herb and shrub species distribution in woody hedgerows of agricultural landscapes of southern Quebec, Canada. We pay particular attention to the distribution of forest herbs and weed species and identify the main factors that explain their presence. We also evaluate the amount of spatial structuring in the species data and explanatory variables. Our results show significant differences in species composition related to the unique influence of all sets of factors considered. Adjacent land-use (from intensive crop to fallow land) remains the best predictor of overall species distribution, followed by environmental conditions and history of management practices. The probability of finding forest herbs in hedgerows increases as intensity of adjacent agricultural practices (from intensive crop to fallow land) decreases. Potential weed species, on the other hand, are more likely to be found within narrow hedgerows adjacent to the more intensively managed fields. We discuss the results in terms of the interactions between the different determinants of plant diversity in hedgerows and demonstrate the necessity to distinguish between multiple structuring factors to devise proper conservation strategies. Such strategies will have to take into account. the ecological as well as the agricultural exploitation context in which linear features are found to be effective. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author(s): de Blois, S; Domon, G; Bouchard, A

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2002