Do anthropogenic corridors homogenize plant communities at a local scale?

Year of publication: 2010

A case studied in Tenerife (Canary Islands)

Biological homogenization is defined as a process that occurs when native species are replaced by common and dominant exotic species or due to depletion and expansion of native species, reducing the beta diversity between areas or habitats. Islands are particularly vulnerable to plant invasion, and as a consequence, homogenization is a process that can become faster and more intense in islands than in continental areas. We recorded vascular plant species composition in roadside communities along a strong altitudinal gradient using plots beside the road and at two distances from the road (0–50 and 50–100 m). We analyzed the results separately for each group of plots with a Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA) including and excluding exotic species. The results revealed that where exotic species were most abundant, i.e., at the road edge, they can create an effect of floristic homogenization where three similar roads are compared. At a distance of >50 m from the road, where exotic species are less frequent, this effect has already disappeared, indicating that it is a local phenomenon, closely related to the highly disturbed roadside environment. Furthermore, floristic homogenization seems to be more important at higher altitudes (>1000 m), probably related to higher diversity in native plant communities and lower levels of human disturbances. Roads allow humans to reach relatively remote and sometimes well-conserved areas, and, at the same time, facilitate the spread of exotic plants and the most common native species which can locally create floristic homogenization in roadside communities on this oceanic island. A deeper understanding of the effects of these anthropogenic corridors at the local and regional scales is therefore required to integrate road planning and management with the aim of conserving the value of the natural areas.

Plant Ecology 209: 23-35

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Cover filmFor hermits and fire salamanders - How municipalities connect habitats in the Alps. DVD, 2012, CIPRA International




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