Effects of increasing landscape heterogeneity on local plant species richness: how much is enough?

Mathilde Redon, Laurent Berge`s, Thomas Cordonnier, Sandra Luque

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Contemporary landscape ecology continues to explore the causes and consequences of landscape heterogeneity across a range of scales, and
    demands for the scientific underpinnings of landscape planning and management still remains high. The spatial distribution of resources can be a key element in determining habitat quality, and that in turn is directly related to the level of heterogeneity in the system. In this sense, forest habitat mosaics may be more affected by lack of heterogeneity than by structural fragmentation. Nonetheless, increasing spatial heterogeneity at a given spatial scale can also decrease habitat patch size, with potential negative consequences for specialist species. Such dual effect may lead to hump-backed shape relationships between species diversity and heterogeneity, leading to three related assumptions: (i) at low levels of heterogeneity, an increase in heterogeneity favours local and regional species richness, (ii) there is an optimum heterogeneity level at which a maximum number of species is reached, (iii) further increase in spatial heterogeneity has a negative effect on local and regional species richness, due to increasing adverse effects of habitat fragmentation. In this study, we investigated the existence of a hump-shaped relationship between local plant species richness and increasing forest landscape heterogeneity on a complex mosaic in the French Alps. Forest landscape heterogeneity was quantified with five independent criteria. We found significant quadratic relationships between local forest species richness and two heterogeneity criteria indicators, showing a slight decrease of forest species richness at very high heterogeneity levels. Species richness–landscape heterogeneity relationships varied according to the heterogeneity metrics involved and the type of species richness considered. Our results support the assumption that intermediate levels of heterogeneity may support more species than very high levels of heterogeneity, although we were not able to conclude for a systematic negative effect of very high levels of heterogeneity on local plant species richness.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)773-787
    JournalLandscape ecology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2014


    • Intermediate heterogeneity hypothesis
    • Quadratic relationships
    • Understory diversity
    • Mountain forests
    • Forest structural heterogeneity
    • Landscape mosaics
    • Heterogeneity indicators


    Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of increasing landscape heterogeneity on local plant species richness: how much is enough?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this