Implications of high species turnover on the south-western Australian sandplains

Neil Gibson, Suzanne Prober, Rachel Meissner, Stephen Van Leeuwen

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    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Species turnover and its components related to replacement and nestedness form a significant element of diversity that is historically poorly accounted for in conservation planning. To inform biodiversity conservation and contribute to a broader understanding of patterns in species turnover, we undertook a floristic survey of 160 plots along an 870 km transect across oligotrophic sandplains, extending from the mesic south coast to the arid interior of south-Western Australia. A nested survey design was employed to sample distances along the transect as evenly as possible. Species turnover was correlated with geographic distance at both regional and local scales, consistent with dispersal limitation being a significant driver of species turnover. When controlled for species richness, species replacement was found to be the dominant component of species turnover and was uniformly high across the transect, uncorrelated with either climatic or edaphic factors. This high replacement rate, well documented in the mega-diverse south-west, appears to also be a consistent feature of arid zone vegetation systems despite a decrease in overall species richness. Species turnover increased rapidly with increasing extent along the transect reaching an asymptote at ca. 50 km. These findings are consistent with earlier work in sandplain and mallee vegetation in the south-west and suggests reserve based conservation strategies are unlikely to be practicable in the south-Western Australia sandplains when communities are defined by species incidence rather than dominance. 2017 Gibson et al.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0172977
    Number of pages18
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2017


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