Guirado M.; Pino J. & Rodà, F. 2006. “Understory plant species richness and composition in metropolitan forest archipelagos: Effects of patch size, adjacent land use and distance to the edge”. Global Ecology and Biogeography.


To address the relative role of adjacent land use, distance to forest edge, forest size and their interactions on understorey plant species richness and composition in perimetropolitan forests.

The metropolitan area of Barcelona, north‐eastern Spain.

Twenty sampling sites were distributed in two forest size‐categories: small forest patches (8–90 ha) and large forest areas (> 18,000 ha). For each forest‐size category, five sites were placed adjacent to crops and five sites adjacent to urban areas. Vascular plant species were recorded and human frequentation was scored visually in 210 10 × 10 m plots placed at 10, 50 and 100 m from the forest edge, and additionally at 500 m in large forest areas. Plant species were grouped according to their ecology and rarity categories. A nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS) ordination was carried out to detect patterns of variation in species assemblage, and to explore the relationships between these patterns and the richness of the species groups and the studied factors. Factorial anovas were used to test the significance of the studied factors on the richness of species groups. Relationships between human frequentation and the studied variables were assessed through contingency tables.

Forest‐size category was the main factor affecting synanthropic species (i.e. those thriving in man‐made or man‐disturbed habitats). Synanthropic species richness decreased with increasing distance from the forest edge and, when forests were adjacent to crops, it was higher in small forest patches than in large forest areas. Richness of rare forest species was lower in small forest patches than in large forest areas when forests were adjacent to urban areas. Richness of common forest species and of all forest species together were higher close to the forest edge than far from it when forests were adjacent to urban areas. Forests adjacent to urban areas were more likely to experience high human frequentation, particularly in those plots nearest to the forest edge.

Main conclusions
Forest‐size category and adjacent land use were the most important factors determining species richness and composition. The preservation of large forests adjacent to crops in peri‐urban areas is recommended, because they are less frequented by humans, are better buffered against the percolation of nonforest species and could favour the persistence of rare forest species.