Linear declines in exotic and native plant species richness along an increasing altitudinal gradient in the Snowy Mountains, Australia
Declines in plant species richness with increasing altitude are common, but the form of the relationship can vary, with both monotonic decreasing relationships and humped relationship recorded. However, these different richness to altitude relationships may be due to methods that used different plot sizes /areas and survey efforts. To explore native and exotic plant richness along an altitudinal gradient in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, we consistently surveyed plots that were 120-m2 in area at 39 sites ranging from 540 m to 2020 m. To relate exotic plant richness to disturbance, we surveyed plots at 16 sites along main roads and 23 sites along minor roads, and also compared these 39 roadside plots to 120-m2 plots located in undisturbed vegetation adjacent to the roadside (native plant richness was only surveyed in 25 of these 39 adjacent plots). We found a negative linear relationship between total, exotic and native species richness and altitude for plots on the side of main roads (16 sites) and minor roads (23 sites). For adjacent plots negative linear relationships were significant for all measures of species richness except for native species adjacent to major roads. As the pattern occurred for exotics it is less likely to be due to historical constraints on the species pools. The pattern could be influenced by difference in levels of disturbance along the gradient, although any such gradient in disturbance would have to apply to roadside and adjacent plots on major and minor roads. Therefore it may be due to other factors such as changes in climate along the altitudinal gradient, although additional sampling including direct measures of climatic conditions, soil, and disturbance factors would be needed to determine if this was the case.
Austral Ecology: a journal of ecology in the Southern Hemisphere
Plant Biology not elsewhere classified
Environmental Sciences not elsewhere classified