Question: Which factors determine diversity of native and alien vascular plant species in semi-natural dry grasslands?
Location: Northern limestone Alps to the southern rim of the Bohemian massif in northern Austria.
Methods: In 70 randomly chosen dry grassland patches (0.008 ha – 7 ha) we sampled a complete inventory of vascular plant species at each site. We analysed the correlation between species diversity of natives, archaeophytes (pre-1500 aliens) and neophytes (post-1500 aliens). We used GLM to study the relationship of species number (natives, neophytes, archaeophytes) to five explanatory variables (altitude, within habitat diversity, habitat diversity of adjacent areas, within land-use diversity and land-use in adjacent areas). Orthogonal components of these variables were derived with a PCA and used in the models. We also tested the influence of minimum residence time (MRT) and the covariables origin, mode of introduction and life form on the number of grassland sites with neophytes with analogous GLMs.
Results: Native species diversity species was positively correlated with the species diversity of new, but not old invaders. GLM explains 70% of the variance in the number of native species. Patch size explained the largest part of the variation in the number of native species. PCA axes 1 and 3 were significantly related to the number of native species. Axis 1was related to on-site habitat and land-use diversity. The GLM of the archaeophyte diversity explains 18% of the variance. Altitude and presence of fields and grassland in the neighbourhood mainly explained archaeophyte species diversity. The GLM of neophyte diversity explains 12% of the variance. The number of neophytes was positively related to that of archaeophytes. Only PCA axis 3, which is mainly influenced by adjacent land-use types, showed a relationship with neophytes. MRT, mode of introduction and region of origin (but not life form) were significantly related to the number of grassland sites invaded by neophytes, explaining 35% of the variance.
Conclusion: Most factors governing native species diversity are not significantly related to alien species diversity. Additional determinants of the local scale diversity of alien species exist such as region of origin and historical factors (MRT, mode of introduction).