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Contrasting spatial pattern and pattern forming processes in south west Western Australia natural and restored shrubland communities

Miller, B., Perry, G., Enright, N.ORCID: 0000-0003-2979-4505 and Lamont, B. (2009) Contrasting spatial pattern and pattern forming processes in south west Western Australia natural and restored shrubland communities. In: 19th Conference of the Society of Ecological Restoration International, 24 - 26 August, Perth, Western Australia.

Abstract

Restored plant communities provide a uniquely simplified context for studying difficult questions such as how ecological processes structure plant communities. Spatial pattern among individuals is an important component of community structure, and plays a role in determining ecosystem properties and restoration trajectories in plant communities. Nevertheless, the role of spatial pattern has previously received scant attention in a restoration context. We compared 87 plant species patterns from two samples of vegetation restored after sand-mining, with 233 patterns of species in four nearby natural reference sites in fire-prone, species-rich shrublands in south-west Australia. Spatial tests were performed at each site, both pooling species, and for each species with >20 individuals. Between 44 and 86% of species were aggregated in natural sites, with pattern in the remainder not distinguishable from random: unexpectedly, the restored sites lay at the upper bound of this variation. Comparison across species groups showed little difference in restored sites, but large differences in natural sites – with aggregation less frequent among large-seeded species, serotinous species and resprouting species. Observed differences among species groups may be attributed to contrasting dispersal mode patterns, spatial heterogeneity associated with fires, and multi- versus single-generational dispersal and these differences in observed patterns may influence future restoration trajectories. Other differences between natural and restored vegetation included a higher incidence of gaps, and lower stem density of restored vegetation. The increased abundance of gaps in restored vegetation suggests a major role of spatial processes in restoration failure.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Environmental Science
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/16115
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