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Importance of hedgerows as habitat corridors for forest plants in agricultural landscapes

Biological Conservation


Hedgerows have been proposed as habitat and conservation corridor for forest plant species, but their importance for the survival of these species is still not clear. The objective of our study was to examine the frequency of occurrence of forest species and total forest species richness in different parts of the hedgerows, and to relate these patterns of occurrence to the species' habitat requirements and life history traits. We surveyed in total 130 forest-hedgerow transects in North-western Germany, including three age classes. About 77% of all forest plant species (including some endangered taxa) occurring in the neighbouring forests were also found in the adjacent hedgerows. In all age classes, there was a negative relationship between distance from the forest-hedgerow ecotone and the number of species. Ancient hedgerows were not significantly more species-rich than more recent ones. Within 100 m distance from the forest edge, forest species richness increased with an increasing number of species in the nearby forest and with an increasing cover of the tree canopy as well as a decreasing cover of the shrub layer. Species with high frequency had comparatively high Ellenberg indicator values for light, and were mostly associated with anemochorous and epizoochorous seed dispersal. The frequency of occurrence in hedgerows of species with common attributes was partly in agreement, partly in disagreement with the results obtained in previous studies. We conclude that patterns are difficult to generalize, probably due to a strong regional variation in the pool of forest species and in the specific environments of both forests and hedgerows. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Wehling, S; Diekmann, M

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2009