Spatial variation in ditch bank plant species composition at the regional level: the role of environment and dispersal

X. Leng, C.J.M. Musters, G.R. de Snoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Questions: Can patterns of species similarity on ditch banks be explained by environmental and dispersal factors and, if so, to what extent? Does the pattern of distance decay differ among different species groups (all species versus target species of conservation interest; species of different dispersal type)? Location: Krimpenerwaard, the Netherlands. Methods: In 2006-2007, ditch bank vegetation data on 130 terrestrial herbaceous species were collected on 72 plots. Species similarity was measured and related to environmental distance (soil type and nutrient level) and dispersal distance (geographic distance and limitation of dispersal by water, wind and agricultural activities) as explanatory factors using multiple regression on distance matrices (MRM). Differences in rates of distance decay in species similarity among different subsets of data (species groups) were investigated using randomization tests. Results: In all species, patterns of similarity of composition are influenced mainly by variations in dispersal, while for target species these are due to combined effects of environmental and dispersal variation. Compared with species using other dispersal mechanisms, water-dispersed species had half the rate of distance decay. Conclusions: For all species considered here, dispersal limitation seems more responsible for the spatial variation in species composition than environmental determinism. Conservation management focused on plant species diversity would be more successful in areas adjacent to those where a similar management regime is already in force. For target species of conservation interest, besides dispersal limitation, environmental determinants like nutrient level are also important. As a means of conserving such target species, therefore, focusing on reducing nutrient levels and facilitating species dispersal will be more effective than current management practices, which mainly focus on reducing fertilizer inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-875
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • seed dispersal
  • beta-diversity
  • similarity
  • distance
  • conservation
  • patterns
  • ecology
  • communities
  • biodiversity
  • forests


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