Relationships Among Environmental Factors, Vegetation Zones, and Species Richness in a North American Calcareous Prairie Fen
AbstractPattern and zonation of peatland vegetation are regulated by environmental gradients, as well as by effects of biomass and competitive exclusion on distribution of species richness. The interplay of these factors has not been closely examined in calcareous prairie fens, which are isolated, species rich, calcareous peatlands in the Prairie Peninsula region of North America. We used multivariate analyses to classify vegetation and to quantify species richness in relation to substrate conditions and vegetation structure in a 23-ha calcareous prairie fen in northeast Illinois, USA. Plant assemblages formed a floristic continuum across sedge meadow, graminoid fen, calcareous seep, marl flat, and spring run vegetation, with complete dissimilarity between spring run and sedge meadow. These vegetation zones corresponded to gradients of decreasing organic content and cation exchange capacity, and increasing pH, Na, Mg, and total Ca concentrations, which reach extremes in spring run and marl flats. Species richness was unimodal across the fen gradient, fitting an expected model of low richness in vegetation either with large biomass (as shown by low light penetration in tall sedge meadow) or with environmentally harsh conditions and low biomass (shown by high light penetration in short marl flat and spring run vegetation). These biotic and abiotic factors, as well as hydrology, mediate vegetation pattern across the fen.
Volume, Issue, Page Number25, 3, 685-696