Fine-grain beta diversity of Palaearctic grassland vegetation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Iwona Dembicz
  • Jürgen Dengler
  • Manuel J. Steinbauer
  • Sándor Bartha
  • Sabina Burrascano
  • Alessandro Chiarucci
  • Goffredo Filibeck
  • François Gillet
  • Monika Janišová
  • Salza Palpurina
  • David Storch
  • Werner Ulrich
  • Svetlana Aćić
  • Steffen Boch
  • Juan Antonio Campos
  • Laura Cancellieri
  • Marta Carboni
  • Giampiero Ciaschetti
  • Timo Conradi
  • Pieter De Frenne
  • Jiri Dolezal
  • Christian Dolnik
  • Franz Essl
  • Edy Fantinato
  • Itziar García‐mijangos
  • Gian Pietro Giusso Del Galdo
  • John‐arvid Grytnes
  • Riccardo Guarino
  • Behlül Güler
  • Jutta Kapfer
  • Ewelina Klichowska
  • Łukasz Kozub
  • Anna Kuzemko
  • Swantje Löbel
  • Michael Manthey
  • Corrado Marcenò
  • Anne Mimet
  • Alireza Naqinezhad
  • Jalil Noroozi
  • Arkadiusz Nowak
  • Harald Pauli
  • Robert K. Peet
  • Vincent Pellissier
  • Remigiusz Pielech
  • Massimo Terzi
  • Emin Uğurlu
  • Orsolya Valkó
  • Iuliia Vasheniak
  • Kiril Vassilev
  • Denys Vynokurov
  • Hannah J. White
  • Wolfgang Willner
  • Manuela Winkler
  • Sebastian Wolfrum
  • Jinghui Zhang
  • Idoia Biurrun

Colleges, School and Institutes


Questions: Which environmental factors influence fine-grain beta diversity of vegetation and do they vary among taxonomic groups?

Location: Palaearctic biogeographic realm.

Methods: We extracted 4,654 nested-plot series with at least four different grain sizes between 0.0001 m² and 1,024 m² from the GrassPlot database, covering a wide range of different grassland and other open habitat types. We derived extensive environmental and structural information for these series. For each series and four taxonomic groups (vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, all), we calculated the slope parameter (z-value) of the power law species–area relationship (SAR), as a beta diversity measure. We tested whether z-values differed among taxonomic groups and with respect to biogeographic gradients (latitude, elevation, macroclimate), ecological (site) characteristics (several stress–productivity, disturbance and heterogeneity measures, including land use) and alpha diversity (c-value of the power law SAR).

Results: Mean z-values were highest for lichens, intermediate for vascular plants and lowest for bryophytes. Bivariate regressions of z-values against environmental variables had rather low predictive power (mean R² = 0.07 for vascular plants, less for other taxa). For vascular plants, the strongest predictors of z-values were herb layer cover (negative), elevation (positive), rock and stone cover (positive) and the c-value (U-shaped). All tested metrics related to land use (fertilization, livestock grazing, mowing, burning, decrease in naturalness) led to a decrease in z-values. Other predictors had little or no impact on z-values. The patterns for bryophytes, lichens and all taxa combined were similar but weaker than those for vascular plants.

Conclusions: We conclude that productivity has negative and heterogeneity positive effects on z-values, while the effect of disturbance varies depending on type and intensity. These patterns and the differences among taxonomic groups can be explained via the effects of these drivers on the mean occupancy of species, which is mathematically linked to beta diversity.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13045
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Vegetation Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2021


  • disturbance, elevation, fine-grain beta diversity, heterogeneity, land use, macroecology, mean occupancy, Palaearctic grassland, productivity, scale dependence, species–area relationship (SAR), z-value

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