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Comparing Plant Species Diversity of Mountainous Deserts - Successes and Pitfalls

Van Etten, Eddie J.B.    (Centre for Ecosystem Management, Edith Cowan University  );
  • 초록

    An extensive study of the vegetation characteristics of the Hamersley Ranges, a mountainous desert area of north-west Australia, facilitated the comparison of plant species diversity measures with mountainous deserts of other parts of the world. Alpha diversity was defined as the number of species co-existing at local scales and was found to average 18 species per 0.1 ha for the Hamersley Ranges. This was found to be similar to seven other mountainous deserts in North and South America, and southern Africa. Variation in alpha diversity between these deserts was found to considerably lower than within deserts, suggesting that local processes control species richness at local scales. Beta diversity, defined here as turnover in species composition at various spatial scales, can be measured in many ways. For the Hamersley Ranges, Wilson's β ranged from 1.2 to 1.6 for five sites along a topographic gradient, whereas Whittaker's β between different plant communities was found to average 0.93. Comparable data was not found for other desert areas, but comparisons to non-desert areas suggest beta diversity within landscapes is relatively high and is likely to reflect the considerable landform heterogeneity of the Hamersley Ranges. 55∼70% of species were shared between different landscapes of the Hamersley Ranges; comparisons to other regions suggest beta diversity at this scale is relatively low. Gamma diversity, the number of species over large spatial extents, was successfully compared using regression analysis of the log-log species - area relationship. This revealed that the northern Sonoran desert has significantly less species than the Nama (inland) Karoo and Hamersley Ranges over medium spatial extents, but species numbers were similar at a regional scale. Several constraints to the valid comparison of species diversity were identified, including lack of standardisation of sampling techniques, the wide range of measures employed, general lack of published data, and the influence of the various components of spatial scale on most diversity measures. Recommendations on how to improve future comparative work are provided.

  • 주제어

    Community ecology .   Desert ecology .   Ecological comparisons .   Species diversity .   Vegetation.  

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