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Climate and soil texture influence patterns of forb species richness and composition in big sagebrush plant communities across their spatial extent in the western U.S.

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Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) plant communities are widespread in western North America and, similar to all shrub steppe ecosystems worldwide, are composed of a shrub overstory layer and a forb and graminoid understory layer. Forbs account for the majority of plant species diversity in big sagebrush plant communities and are important for ecosystem function. Few studies have explored geographic patterns of forb species richness and composition and their relationships with environmental variables in these communities. Our objectives were to examine the fine and broad-scale spatial patterns in forb species richness and composition and the influence of environmental variables. We sampled forb species richness and composition along transects at 15 field sites in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, built species-area relationships to quantify differences in forb species richness at sites, and used Principal Components Analysis, non-metric multidimensional scaling, and redundancy analysis to identify relationships among environmental variables and forb species richness and composition. We found that species richness was most strongly correlated with soil texture, while species composition was most related to climate. The combination of climate and soil texture influences water availability, which our results indicate has important consequences for forb species richness and composition, and suggests that climate change-induced modification of soil water availability may have important implications for plant species diversity in the future. [Springer Nature SharedIt Initiative Full-Text Article Available : http://rdcu.be/tFJu].
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Climate and soil texture influence patterns of forb species
richness and composition in big sagebrush plant
communities across their spatial extent in the western U.S.
Victoria E. Pennington .Kyle A. Palmquist .John B. Bradford .
William K. Lauenroth
Received: 11 November 2016 / Accepted: 13 June 2017 / Published online: 23 June 2017
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2017
Abstract Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.)
plant communities are widespread in western North
America and, similar to all shrub steppe ecosystems
worldwide, are composed of a shrub overstory layer
and a forb and graminoid understory layer. Forbs
account for the majority of plant species diversity in
big sagebrush plant communities and are important
for ecosystem function. Few studies have explored
geographic patterns of forb species richness and
composition and their relationships with environ-
mental variables in these communities. Our objec-
tives were to examine the fine and broad-scale
spatial patterns in forb species richness and compo-
sition and the influence of environmental variables.
We sampled forb species richness and composition
along transects at 15 field sites in Colorado, Idaho,
Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming,
built species-area relationships to quantify differ-
ences in forb species richness at sites, and used
Principal Components Analysis, non-metric multi-
dimensional scaling, and redundancy analysis to
identify relationships among environmental vari-
ables and forb species richness and composition. We
found that species richness was most strongly
correlated with soil texture, while species compo-
sition was most related to climate. The combination
of climate and soil texture influences water avail-
ability, which our results indicate has important
consequences for forb species richness and compo-
sition, and suggests that climate change-induced
modification of soil water availability may have
important implications for plant species diversity in
the future.
Keywords Biogeography Biodiversity Climate
Greater Sage-Grouse Species-area relationship Soil
properties Sagebrush Artemisia tridentata
Communicated by Lauchlan Fraser.
Electronic supplementary material The online version of
this article (doi:10.1007/s11258-017-0743-9) contains supple-
mentary material, which is available to authorized users.
V. E. Pennington K. A. Palmquist W. K. Lauenroth
Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie,
WY 82071, USA
e-mail: kpalmqu1@uwyo.edu
J. B. Bradford
U.S. Geological Survey, Southwest Biological Science
Center, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
e-mail: jbradford@usgs.gov
W. K. Lauenroth
School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale
University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA
e-mail: William.Lauenroth@Yale.edu
V. E. Pennington (&)
Avian Science Center, College of Forestry and
Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula,
MT 59812, USA
e-mail: victoria.pennington4@gmail.com
123
Plant Ecol (2017) 218:957–970
DOI 10.1007/s11258-017-0743-9
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