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Distribution patterns of plants explained by human movement behaviour

By Marc Niggemann, Jens Jetzkowitz, Stefan Brunzel, Matthias T. Wichmann and Ronald Bialozyt


Distribution patterns of plants are affected by human activities such as creation, destruction or modification of habitats. However, another important question is to what extent humans shape plant distributions by acting as dispersal vectors. In order to answer this question we developed a simulation model for the spread of plant species between human settlements. This was done on the basis of extensive sociological and ecological data on a regional scale. With regard to the sociological data, human movement behaviour defined the amount of exchange between the settlements. Gardening types represented the potential habitat in our model. The ecological data was derived from a vegetation survey carried out in 2003, which was a repeat of a survey between 1974 and 1981 along the same transects. From these surveys, we studied the distributions of 13 species in 67 settlements. In our model, the earlier survey provided the data for the initial distribution. The simulated pattern was consequently compared with the distribution pattern in 2003. In the model, dispersal kernels based on patterns of human movement between settlements led to a better match with the distribution patterns than a null model simulating pure distance dependent dispersal for all species. This was statistically significant for seven of the thirteen species. A striking result was that alien species seem to benefit more from human dispersal than native species. We emphasize the importance of the sociological data on human movement behaviour in parameterizing our regional scale model. This study provides quantitative evidence on the impact of human movement behaviour on the distribution of plant species in suburban areas

Topics: Ecology and Environment
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.02.018
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