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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Determinants of native and exotic plant species diversity and composition in remnant oak savannas on southeastern Vancouver Island Lilley, Patrick Ledford


Many regional and local factors can influence the distribution of native and exotic species in ecological communities. I examined the regional- and local-scale determinants of native and exotic vascular plant species richness and composition in a highly fragmented oak savanna ecosystem on southeastern Vancouver Island. In sharp contrast to most reported results, I found a negative relationship between native and exotic richness at the regional scale, and no relationship at the local scale. Two extrinsic factors, surrounding road density and climate, best explained the regional-scale relationship by each affecting natives and exotics in opposite ways. Road density and climate were also the dominant predictors of native and exotic composition at the regional scale. Patterns in the patch occupancy of individual species confirmed the importance of these factors but I found that low surrounding road densities and cool, wet conditions predicted the presence of many natives and the absence of many exotics. Environmental factors explained variation in richness and composition at the local scale, but these factors were different for natives and exotics. My results suggest that natives and exotics respond to roads and climate in fundamentally different ways. Roads increase both exotic propagule pressure and disturbance, which may facilitate exotic invasion. In contrast, disturbance from roads may increase the likelihood of local extinction for particular natives. Differing climatic preferences within the native and exotic species pools may also partially explain the observed patterns. There was no evidence that native diversity directly affects exotic diversity (or vice versa). Surprisingly, I found that connectivity was not an important predictor of richness or composition despite the high degree of habitat fragmentation in this ecosystem.

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