- Recent changes in patch characteristics and plant communities in the jalca grasslands of the Peruvian Andes
- Volume | Issue number
- 44 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Habitat loss and fragmentation are considered major threats to biodiversity, especially in tropical mountain ecosystems. Most studies focus on the relationships between biodiversity and patch characteristics such as patch size, connectivity or degree of contrast with the surrounding matrix, but leave the rate of change within these variables little explored. We analyzed the importance of changes in patch characteristics over time on species diversity and species composition in the paramo of northern Peru, a tropical grassland ecosystem, locally known as jalca. We obtained land use/cover maps for 1987 and 2007 spanning an area of 6300 km2, and quantified land use change, jalca patch characteristics and their proportional changes over 20 yr. In 2009, 371 vascular plant species were recorded in 92 plots, each plot representative of single patches. Between 1987 and 2007, jalca cover decreased from 47 to 35 percent due to encroaching agriculture. This activity showed an upward shift probably favored by climate change. The number of jalca patches increased, mean patch size decreased, and the patches showed a higher contrast with the surrounding matrix. Multiple linear regression failed to show that species diversity relates to changes in patch characteristics. Canonical correspondence analysis indicated that species composition relates to the degree of contrast between the patch and its surrounding matrix and its changes through time. We concluded that changes in patch characteristics are important only for species composition. This study highlights the importance of considering matrix management with a long term perspective for conservation efforts.
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