Effects of site and species characteristics on nested patterns of species composition in sedge meadows

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Biotas of both geographical islands and habitat islands are often nested subsets of the biotas of successively more species-rich islands within the same system. The life history characteristics of a species may determine how that species contributes to the general pattern of species nestedness. Here, I investigate the floras of 56 sedge meadow wetlands in northern Illinois (USA) in order to characterize the degree of nestedness in these communities, determine which individual plant species contribute to the nested pattern, and investigate species characteristics that might be related to nonrandom patterns of distribution in individual plant species. The entire assemblage of species at all sedge meadows was significantly nested. Species richness and area were significantly correlated, and the nested pattern was closely related to site area, suggesting that species drop out of the assemblage in a predictable order as site area decreases. Some individual species exhibited nonrandom distributions across the sites, occurring more often in large, species-rich sites. Large sites were more likely than smaller sites to contain conservative species, i.e., those typical of pristine natural habitat, whereas nonconservative species were distributed more randomly among sites. Nested patterns of distribution of conservative species with respect to site area may result from their high probability of extinction on small sites or from a tendency for required habitats to co-occur on the same large sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004


  • Fragmentation
  • Nestedness
  • Species distribution
  • Species traits
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science

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