Guirado J.; Pino J. & Rodà F. 2007. “Comparing the role of site disturbance and landscape properties on understory species richness in fragmented periurban Mediterranean forests”. Landscape Ecology.


We hypothesized that the spatial configuration and dynamics of periurban forest patches in Barcelona (NE of Spain) played a minor role in determining plant species richness and assemblage compared to site conditions, and particularly to both direct (measured at plot level) and potential (inferred from landscape metrics) human-associated site disturbance. The presence of all understory vascular plants was recorded on 252 plots of 100 m2 randomly selected within forest patches ranging in size from 0.25 ha to 218 ha. Species were divided into 6 groups, according to their ecology and conservation status. Site condition was assessed at plot level and included physical attributes, human-induced disturbance and Quercus spp. tree cover. Landscape structure and dynamics were assessed from patch metrics and patch history. We also calculated a set of landscape metrics related to potential human accessibility to forests. Results of multiple linear regressions indicated that the variance explained for non-forest species groups was higher than for forest species richness. Most of the main correlates corresponded to site disturbance variables related to direct human alteration, or to landscape variables associated to indirect human effects on forests: Quercus tree cover (a proxy for successional status) was the most important correlate of non-forest species richness, which decreased when Quercus tree cover increased. Human-induced disturbance was an important correlate of synanthropic and total species richness, which were higher in recently managed and in highly frequented forests. Potential human accessibility also affected the richness of most species groups. In contrast, patch size, patch shape and connectivity played a minor role, as did patch history. We conclude that human influence on species richness in periurban forests takes place on a small scale, whereas large-scale effects attributable to landscape structure and fragmentation are comparatively less important. Implications of these results for the conservation of plant species in periurban forests are discussed.