Dark diversity reveals importance of biotic resources and competition for plant diversity across broad environmental gradients

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Species richness is the most commonly used metric to quantify biodiversity. However, examining dark diversity, the group of missing species which can potentially inhabit a site, can provide a more thorough understanding of the processes influencing observed biodiversity and help evaluate the restoration potential of local habitats. So far, dark diversity has mainly been studied for specific habitats or largescale landscapes while less attention has been given to variation across broad environmental gradients or as a result of local conditions and biotic interactions. In this study, we investigate the importance of local environmental conditions in determining dark diversity and observed richness in plant communities across broad environmental gradients. We use the ecospace concept to investigate how abiotic gradients (defined as position), availability of biotic resources (defined as expansion), spatiotemporal extent of habitats (defined as continuity), as well as species interactions through competition, relate to these biodiversity measures. Position variables were important for both plant richness and dark diversity, some with quadratic relationships, e.g., plant richness showing a unimodal response to soil fertility corresponding to the intermediate productivity hypothesis. Competition represented by community mean Grime C showed a negative correlation with plant richness. Besides position, organic carbon was the most important variable for dark diversity, indicating that in late succession habitats such as forests and shrubs, dark diversity is generally low. The importance of Grime C indicate that intermediate disturbance, such as grazing, may facilitate higher species richness and lower dark diversity. Comparing various biodiversity metrics and their influencing factors might reveal important drivers of biodiversity changes and result in better conservation decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Jun 2019

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