Relation between plant species diversity and landscape variables in Central-European dry grassland fragments and their successional derivates

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A systematic field survey of an area of 843 ha in the traditional Central-European agricultural landscape of Goričko Nature Park in Slovenia revealed 80 fragments of dry semi-natural grasslands. Vascular plant species diversity was studied in relation to landscape variables and to threat (Slovenian red-listed species). Our results show that fragment size does not affect plant species diversity. In addition, fragment shape index is not related to Alpha diversity. Higher Alpha diversity was observed for abandoned grassland fragments. The lowest Alpha diversity was perceived on more mesic fragments, where habitat specialists are much scarcer. It was confirmed that the highest diversity of specialists are in the driest fragments, both still mowed and abandoned. With an increase in the number of distinctly different bordering habitat types, the total number of species per fragment generally does not increase, except in the case of those fragments that are already in different succession stages. Abandoned and typical dry grasslands are associated with a higher number of bordering habitats. Typical dry grassland fragments and abandoned ones, which probably derived mostly from drier (less productive) grasslands, are found on lower altitude and have a lower shape index. Habitat specialists Sedum sexangulare, Polygala vulgaris and Spiranthes spiralis have higher frequency in fragments with a lower shape index. This means that these oligotrophic specialists occur in smaller fragments. But Orchis morio has higher frequencies of occurrence on polygons with a higher shape index, which confirms the observation that this species occurs in larger and more irregular fragments, as well as close to houses and fields and along the roads.

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