Landscape structure influences tree density patterns in fragmented woodlands in semi-arid eastern Australia

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Debuse, Valerie
P. N. House, Alan
W. Taylor, David
A. Swift, Scott
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Landscape and local-scale influences are important drivers of plant community structure. However, their relative contribution and the degree to which they interact remain unclear.We quantified the extent to which landscape structure, within-patch habitat and their confounding effects determine post-clearing tree densities and composition in agricultural landscapes in eastern subtropical Australia. Landscape structure (incorporating habitat fragmentation and loss) and within-patch (site) features were quantified for 60 remnant patches of Eucalyptus populnea (Myrtaceae) woodland.Tree density and species for three ecological maturity classes (regeneration, early maturity, late maturity) and local site features were assessed in one 100 報0 m plot per patch. All but one landscape characteristic was determined within a 1.3-km radius of plots; Euclidean nearest neighbour distance was measured inside a 5-km radius. Variation in tree density and composition for each maturity class was partitioned into independent landscape, independent site and joint effects of landscape and site features using redundancy analysis. Independent site effects explained more variation in regeneration density and composition than pure landscape effects; significant predictors were the proportion of early and late maturity trees at a site, rainfall and the associated interaction. Conversely, landscape structure explained greater variation in early and late maturity tree density and composition than site predictors. Area of remnant native vegetation within a landscape and patch characteristics (area, shape, edge contrast) were significant predictors of early maturity tree density. However, 31% of the explained variation in early mature tree differences represented confounding influences of landscape and local variables. We suggest that within-patch characteristics are important in influencing semi-arid woodland tree regeneration. However, independent and confounding effects of landscape structure resulting from previous vegetation clearing may have exerted a greater historical influence on older cohorts and should be accounted for when examining woodland dynamics across a broader range of environments.

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Austral Ecology
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Ecology not elsewhere classified
Environmental Sciences
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