Disentangling the influence of environmental and anthropogenic factors on the distribution of endemic vascular plants in Sardinia
by Mauro Fois, Giuseppe Fenu, Eva Maria Cañadas, Gianluigi BacchettaDue to the impelling urgency of plant conservation and the increasing availability of high resolution spatially interpolated (e.g. climate variables) and categorical data (e.g. land cover and vegetation type), many recent studies have examined relationships among plant species distributions and a diversified set of explanatory factors; nevertheless, global and regional patterns of endemic plant richness remain in many cases unexplained. One such pattern is the 294 endemic vascular plant taxa recorded on a 1 km resolution grid on the environmentally heterogeneous island of Sardinia. Sixteen predictors, including topographic, geological, climatic and anthropogenic factors, were used to model local (number of taxa inside each 1 km grid cell) Endemic Vascular Plant Richness (EVPR). Generalized Linear Models were used to evaluate how each factor affected the distribution of local EVPR. Significant relationships with local EVPR and topographic, geological, climatic and anthropogenic factors were found. In particular, elevation explained the larger fraction of variation in endemic richness but other environmental factors (e.g. precipitation seasonality and slope) and human-related factors (e.g. the Human Influence Index (HII) and the proportion of anthropogenic land uses) were, respectively, positively and negatively correlated with local EVPR. Regional EVPR (number of endemic taxa inside each 100 m elevation interval) was also measured to compare local and regional EVPR patterns along the elevation gradient. In contrast to local, regional EVPR tended to decrease with altitude partly due to the decreasing area covered along altitude. The contrasting results between local and regional patterns suggest that local richness increases as a result of increased interspecific aggregation along altitude, whereas regional richness may depend on the interaction between area and altitude. This suggests that the shape and magnitude of the species-area relationship might vary with elevation. This work provides—for the first time in Sardinia—a comprehensive analysis of the influence of environmental factors on the pattern of EVPR in the entire territory, from sea level to the highest peaks. Elevation, as well as other environmental and human-related variables, were confirmed to be influencing factors. In addition, variations of EVPR patterns at regional-to-local spatial scales inspire next investigations on the possible interaction between elevation and area in explaining patterns of plant species richness.
Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article
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