Environmental relationships of floristic variation in the alpine vegetation of southeast Australia
Kirkpatrick, JB and Bridle, K, Environmental relationships of floristic variation in the alpine vegetation of southeast Australia, Journal of Vegetation Science, 9, (2) pp. 251-260. ISSN 1100-9233 (1998) [Refereed Article]
Australian alpine vegetation is confined to the southeast of the continent and the island of Tasmania. It exhibits strong geographic patterns of floristic variation. These patterns have been attributed to variation in edaphic conditions resulting from geographic variation in substrate, climate and glacial history. This edaphic hypothesis is tested using floristic and environmental data from 166 quadrats distributed throughout the floristic and geographic range of Australian alpine vegetation. Environmental vector fitting in three-dimensional ordination space, the number of significant environmental differences between all pairs of 17 floristic groups and overall statistical analyses of the environmental differences between communities suggest a primacy of climatic variables over edaphic variables in explaining the broad patterns of floristic variation. Continentality, summer warmth, summer rainfall and winter cold all provide a better statistical explanation of floristic variation than the most explanatory of the edaphic variables, extractable P. The environmental variables that best discriminate the groups at each dichotomy of the divisive classification of the floristic data are largely climatic at the upper two levels, with edaphic, topographic and biotic variables being generally more important than climatic variables at the lower levels. Many of the edaphic variables that were most important in discriminating dichotomous groups were relatively insignificant in the broader analyses, suggesting that it is important to partition large data sets for environment/floristic analyses. The results of such partitioning show that the environmental factors most important in influencing floristic variation in alpine vegetation in Australia vary by location and geographic scale.