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Habitat heterogeneity overrides the species–area relationship

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Abstract Aim 

The most obvious, although not exclusive, explanation for the increase of species richness with increasing sample area (the species–area relationship) is that species richness is ultimately linked to area-based increases in habitat heterogeneity. The aim of this paper is to examine the relative importance of area and habitat heterogeneity in determining species richness in nature reserves. Specifically, the work tests the hypothesis that species–area relationships are not positive if habitat heterogeneity does not increase with area. Location 

Sixteen nature reserves (area range 89–11,030 ha) in central Hungary. Methods 

Four-year faunistic inventories were conducted in the reserves involving c. 70 fieldworkers and 65 taxonomists. CORINE 50,000 land-cover maps were used for calculating the heterogeneity of the reserve landscape (number of habitat types, number of habitat patches and total length of edges). Results 

Large reserves were less heterogeneous than small reserves, probably because large reserves were established in large blocks of unproductive land whereas small reserves tended to be in more fertile land. In total, 3975 arthropod species were included in the analysis. The slope of the species–area relationship was positive only for Neuroptera and Trichoptera. There was no significant relationship in the other nine taxa examined (Collembola, Acari, Orthoptera, Thysanoptera, Coleoptera, Araneae, Diplopoda, Chilopoda, Diptera). The density (number of species ha−1) of all species, however, showed a positive correlation with heterogeneity. Main conclusions 

The general lack of fit of species–area relationships in this study is inconsistent with most previous published studies. Importantly, and unlike many other studies, habitat heterogeneity was not correlated with reserve area in the studied system. In the absence of this source of covariation, stronger relationships were identified that suggested a fundamental link between species richness and habitat heterogeneity. The results indicate that habitat heterogeneity rather than area per se is the most important predictor of species richness in the studied system.
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Keywords: Arthropods; central Hungary; community ecology; faunal survey; island ecology; land cover; species–area relationship

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-04-01

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