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Relative importance of isolation, area and habitat heterogeneity for vascular plant species richness of temporary wetlands in east-German farmland

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The purpose of this investigation was to explore the determinants of vascular plant species richness for temporary, isolated wetland habitats which are influenced by hydrologic gradients and characterized by variation in habitat area. The dependent variables, total plant species richness and the number of obligate wetland species were analyzed consecutively. In regression analyses habitat area explained between 11 and 15% of the variation in the dependent variables. Habitat area was correlated with the heterogeneity of the hydroperiods between the upper and lower parts of the hydrologic gradients. In multivariate regression analyses, habitat heterogeneity accounted for 70–77% of the variation in the dependent variables, and habitat area did not have a significant impact. The results are most consistent with the habitat heterogeneity hypothesis. I therefore concluded that area is a surrogate variable for habitat heterogeneity which directly enhances vascular plant species diversity. There was no significant impact of isolation on species richness. The data suggest that the expanses of agricultural fields are not an effective barrier to the dispersal of the studied plant species. Only 10 of 52 wetland species were negatively influenced by isolation. This group of species did not differ from the other wetland species with respect to dispersal strategies and longevity of seed banks. However, the longevity of the seed banks was generally high, and there was a dominance of species whose propagules are transported with the soil clinging to the feet of birds. The results are discussed in the context of accurate dispersal strategies and remnant populations, which may counteract the effects of isolation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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