Assessing the relative importance of dispersal in plant communities using an ecoinformatics approach

W.A. Ozinga, S.M. Hennekens, J.H.J. Schaminée, R.M. Bekker, A. Prinzing, S. Bonn, P. Poschlod, O. Tackenberg, K. Thompson, J.P. Bakker, J.M. van Groenendael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Increased insight into the factors that determine the importance of dispersal limitation on species richness and species composition is of paramount importance for conservation and restoration ecology. One way to explore the importance of dispersal limitation is to use seed-sowing experiments, but these do not enable the screening of large sets of species and habitats. In the present paper we present a complementary approach based on comparing small plots with larger regions with regard to species composition and distribution of functional traits. We developed a GIS tool based on ecological and geographical criteria to quantify species pools at various spatial scales. In this GIS tool, containing floristic, large databases, phytosociological and functional information are exploited. Our premise is that differences in the nature of the species in local and regional species pools with regard to functional traits can give important clues to the processes at work in the assembly of communities. We illustrate the approach with a case study for mesotrophic hay meadows (Calthion palustris). We tested the effects of differences in frequency in the local Habitat Species Pool and differences in dispersal and persistence traits of species on local species composition. Our results show that both species pool effects and functional traits affect the probability of occurrence in small plots. Species with a high propagule weight have, given the frequency in the Local Habitat Species Pool, a lower probability of occurrence in small plots. The probability of local occurrence, however, is increased by the ability to form a persistent soil seed bank and by adult longevity. This provides support for the view that the degree of dispersal limitation is dependent on the degree of spatial isolation of the focal site relative to source populations and moreover that species inherently differ in the degree to which dispersal limitation is a limiting factor for local occurrence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-67
JournalFolia Geobotanica
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • species-pool hypothesis
  • seed size
  • calcareous grassland
  • diversity
  • richness
  • vegetation
  • competition
  • limitation
  • landscape
  • habitats


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