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Environmental and spatial variables influence the composition of frog assemblages in sub-tropical eastern Australia

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In community ecology, contrasting theories suggest that the distribution and abundance of species, and thus the composition of assemblages, are influenced by i) environmental gradients, or ii) contagious biotic processes such as predation, competition, dispersal and disease. In the former case, sites with similar environments would tend to support similar assemblages, while in the latter, geographically proximate sites would tend to support more similar assemblages than widely separated sites. I investigated the relative influence of environmental variables and spatial position on the composition of frog assemblages at forest streams in sub-tropical eastern Australia using redundancy analysis (RDA) and partial RDA. Data on the maximum abundance of the frog species at 65 survey sites were transformed such that RDA would yield the Hellinger distance between sites. The following analysis identified 11 environmental variables that explained 45% of the variation in the abundance of species at the survey sites (the species matrix), as a proportion of total variance. The geographic co-ordinates of the survey sites accounted for 12%, while the environmental and spatial variables combined accounted for 47% of the variation in the species matrix. Partial redundancy analysis indicated that of the explained variation, 74% was purely environmental, 5% was purely spatial and 21% was spatial environmental variation. This study is the first to quantify the relative influence of environmental and spatial variables on the composition of amphibian assemblages. It provides support for both the environmental control model and the biotic control model of species’ distributions and assemblage composition, although environmental variables appear to have the greater effect at this scale of analysis.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

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