Spatial associations between plants and vegetation community characteristics provide insights into the processes influencing plant rarity

Meena S. Sritharan*, Ben C. Scheele, Wade Blanchard, David B. Lindenmayer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Determining the drivers of plant rarity is a major challenge in ecology. Analysing spatial associations between different plant species can provide an exploratory avenue for understanding the ecological drivers of plant rarity. Here, we examined the different types of spatial associations between rare and common plants to determine if they influence the occurrence patterns of rare species. We completed vegetation surveys at 86 sites in woodland, forest, and heath communities in south-east Australia. We also examined two different rarity measures to quantify how categorisation criteria affected our results. Rare species were more likely to have positive associations with both rare and common species across all three vegetation communities. However, common species had positive or negative associations with rare and other common species, depending on the vegetation community in which they occurred. Rare species were positively associated with species diversity in forest communities. In woodland communities, rare species were associated negatively with species diversity but positively associated with species evenness. Rare species with high habitat specificity were more clustered spatially than expected by chance. Efforts to understand the drivers of plant rarity should use rarity definitions that consider habitat specificity. Our findings suggest that examining spatial associations between plants can help understand the drivers of plant rarity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0260215
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Volume16
    Issue number12 December
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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