Spatial scale, species diversity, and habitat structure: small mammals in Australian tropical rain forest

Williams, Stephen E., Marsh, Helene, and Winter, John (2002) Spatial scale, species diversity, and habitat structure: small mammals in Australian tropical rain forest. Ecology, 83 (5). pp. 1317-1329.

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Abstract

We investigated patterns of mammal assemblage structure on the Atherton Tableland in the Wet Tropics biogeographic region of northeastern Australia. We used live trapping and quantitative estimates of stratified vegetation density to examine the relationships between the structure of the mammal assemblage and habitat structure over three nested spatial scales across a natural vegetation gradient from rain forest to dry, open forest. The narrow transition zone enabled us to examine the relationships between mammal assemblage structure and habitat structure while minimizing the confounding effects of distance, climate, and biogeographic history. The structure of the mammal assemblages was closely related to vegetation structure across and within habitats, and over all spatial scales examined. Vegetation complexity and heterogeneity both influenced assemblage structure, but the relationships varied with spatial scale. Species richness was highest in the open forest and decreased across the gradient into the rain forest. Point diversity was only weakly explained by vegetation structure, whereas >80% of the variation in species richness at the local scale could be explained by vegetation structure. Local-scale species richness of ground-dwelling mammals was mostly a product of the spatial variability in assemblage structure (β diversity), which was associated with the spatial variability in vegetation structure. Local-scale habitat heterogeneity thus promoted local-scale species richness via the close ecological interaction between mammals and habitat structure. The multiscale approach used here, and the nesting of spatial variability in within-habitat vegetation structure, enabled us to demonstrate the scale-dependent effects of spatial habitat heterogeneity and complexity on the structure and diversity of the small-mammal assemblage.

Item ID: 1646
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: assemblage structure; Australia; diversity; ecotone; gradients; habitat complexity; habitat heterogeneity; patchiness; rainforest; small mammals; spatial scale; vegetation structure
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Copyright by the Ecological Society of America Reproduced with permission from Ecological Society of America (ESA).

Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2007
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050211 Wildlife and Habitat Management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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