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Factors Controlling Species Richness in Alpine Plant Communities: An Assessment of the Importance of Stress and Disturbance

Peter M. Kammer and Adrian Möhl
Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research
Vol. 34, No. 4 (Nov., 2002), pp. 398-407
DOI: 10.2307/1552197
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1552197
Page Count: 10
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Factors Controlling Species Richness in Alpine Plant Communities: An Assessment of the Importance of Stress and Disturbance
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Abstract

This study explores whether the high variability of vascular plant diversity among alpine plant communities can be explained by stress and/or disturbance intensities. Species numbers of 14 alpine plant communities were sampled in the Swiss Alps. To quantify the intensity of 13 stress and 6 disturbance factors potentially controlling plant life in these communities, a survey was conducted by asking numerous specialists in alpine vegetation to assess the importance of the different factors for each community. The estimated values were combined in stress- and disturbance-indices which were compared with diversity according to the Intermediate Stress Hypothesis, the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis, and the Dynamic Equilibrium Model, respectively. Each of these theories explained a part of the variability in the species richness, but only the Dynamic Equilibrium Model provided a complete and consistent explanation. The last model suggests that community species richness within the alpine life zone is generally controlled by stress intensity. Disturbance and competition seem to play a secondary role by fine-tuning diversity in specific communities. As diversity is primarily limited by stress, a moderation of temperature-related stress factors, as a result of global warming, may cause a shift of the equilibrium between stress, disturbance, and competition in alpine ecosystems.

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