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Permanent link (DOI): https://doi.org/10.7939/R31R6N69X

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Human disturbance and boreal vascular plant biodiversity in Alberta, Canada Open Access

Descriptions

Other title
Subject/Keyword
Rank occupancy
Biodiversity
Community ecology
Conservation
Plant ecology
Functional traits
Community composition
Intermediate disturbance hypothesis
Boreal
Disturbance ecology
Plants
Exotic
Boreal forest
Community assembly
Succession
Niche width
Community structure
Ecology
Anthropogenic
Specialization
Biogeography
Specialist
Scale
Species traits
Species richness
Scaling
Natural resource management
Human disturbance
Native
Human impacts
Alberta
Vascular plants
Multiple scales
Species diversity
Type of item
Thesis
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mayor, Stephen J
Supervisor and department
Cahill, James J.F. Jr. (Biological Sciences)
Boutin, Stan (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Vellend, Mark (Departement de biologie, Universite de Sherbrooke)
Nielson, Scott (Renewable Resources)
He, Fangliang (Renewable Resources)
Department
Department of Biological Sciences
Specialization
Ecology
Date accepted
2013-11-18T15:09:50Z
Graduation date
2014-06
Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Doctoral
Abstract
The worldwide biodiversity crisis has intensified the need to better understand how biodiversity and human disturbance are related. Yet this relationship lacks both consensus in theoretical expectations and consistency in observed empirical patterns. I present one of the largest extent studies of human impacts on boreal plant biodiversity to date, in the boreal ecoregion of Alberta, where disturbance in sites range ranged from 0 – 100 % area disturbed by varying land use types including agricultural fields, forestry cut-blocks, and petroleum extraction. The ‘intermediate disturbance hypothesis’ (IDH) suggests that disturbance regimes generate predictable non-linear patterns in species richness. But evidence often contradicts IDH at small scales and is generally lacking at large regional scales. I show that across a broad region species richness peaked in communities with intermediate anthropogenic disturbance, as predicted by IDH, even when accounting for many environmental covariates. IDH was consistently supported across trees, shrubs, forbs, and grasses and with temporary and perpetual disturbances. However, only native species fit this pattern; exotic species richness increased linearly with disturbance. A fundamental impediment to understanding the diversity-disturbance relationship is that both diversity and disturbance can depend on the scales at which they are sampled. To test the dependence of species richness on disturbance scale and the scale-dependence of the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, I hold the area over which species richness is measured constant and instead manipulate the area over which human disturbance is measured. I show the shape of richness-disturbance relationship is consistent across scales, but predictions of richness depend on the scale at which disturbance was measured. I also explore impacts of human disturbance on community composition and structure to both identify the risks facing communities and to assess the potential utility of these metrics for monitoring applications. In particular, I explore ranked species occupancy curves, species functional trait dispersion, and species specialization in relation to anthropogenic disturbance extent. Disturbed communities differed in functional traits, particularly in fruit and seed characteristics, but community structure was similar across communities regardless of disturbance class, and both species specialization and functional dispersion of traits were not strongly related to disturbance.
Language
English
DOI
doi:10.7939/R31R6N69X
Rights
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Mayor, S.J., Cahill, J.F.J., He, F., Sólymos, P. & Boutin, S. (2012) Regional boreal biodiversity peaks at intermediate human disturbance. Nature Communications, 3, 1142.

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