The drivers of plant turnover change across spatial scales in the Azores

Leo, M., Rigal, F., Ronquillo, C., Borges, P.A.V., Azevedo, E.B. & Santos, A.M.C. (2024) The drivers of plant turnover change across spatial scales in the Azores.

Ecography, Online early, e06697. DOI:10.1111/ecog.06697 (IF2022 5,9; Q1 Ecology)
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  • Mar, 2024


Beta diversity patterns are essential for understanding how biological communities are structured. Geographical and environmental factors, as well as species dispersal ability, are important drivers of beta diversity, but their relative importance may vary across spatial scales. In this study, we evaluate whether beta diversity changes across geographical scales and analyse how different drivers affect turnover patterns of native seed plants in an oceanic archipelago, the Azores (Portugal). Using a 500 x 500 m resolution grid, we selected cells that are covered by one of the following habitats: native forest, naturalized vegetation and seminatural pastures. We calculated species turnover at three spatial scales: i) between islands, ii) between cells within each island, and finally iii) between cells of each of the habitats of interest in each island. We then calculated the contribution of dispersal syndromes (endozoochory, epizoochory, hydrochory and anemochory) to turnover at each of the scales. Lastly, we assessed the relationship between geographical and climatic distances and habitat composition with turnover. Turnover was higher at the smallest scale, particularly in seminatural pastures, and decreased with increasing spatial scales, a pattern potentially associated with the historical fragmentation and current patchy distribution of native forest and seminatural habitats in the Azores. Dispersal syndromes and habitat composition had a negligible effect on turnover at all scales. Geographical distance had a positive effect on turnover at all scales, increasing with scale. The relationship between turnover and climatic distance was only significant at the intermediate and small scales in specific islands and habitats. Scale plays an important role at determining the effect of the drivers of turnover, in particular geographical and climatic distance. These results highlight the need to carefully select the scale of analysis when studying turnover patterns, as well as identifying the potential drivers associated with each scale.