Assessing the Utility of Landscape Heterogeneity for Predicting Biological Diversity

Personnel: David Capen, Kathy Ciarimboli, Dan Farrell, Megan Hughes

Cooperators: Mount Mansfield State Forest

Abiotic landscape heterogeneity may be an important surrogate for direct biological inventories in a coarse-filter approach to conservation planning, providing time- and cost-efficiency. With this in mind, the Vermont Biodiversity Project has characterized physical features of the landscape on a 30-meter grid across Vermont's entire land area. Each cell in the grid contains a code, termed a Landscape Diversity Unit (LDU), that represents a particular assemblage of bedrock, surficial geology, elevation, and landform classes. Presumably, LDU diversity is indicative of biological diversity, because physically diverse areas harbor multiple potential niches. However, few studies have directly tested this assumption, and none in Vermont has assessed the efficacy of LDUs as a surrogate for biological diversity.

In this study, we are examining relationships between LDU and biological diversity in Mount Mansfield State Forest (MMSF). In particular, we are measuring diversity in three distinct taxa: vascular plants, birds, and invertebrates. We used a statistical cluster analysis of all potential plots in MMSF in order to select plots that: (1) represent a gradation in LDU richness, (2) differ in LDU composition, and (3) contain LDU richness measures and compositions representative of MMSF. We selected forty 450-m2 plots and established parallel transects for sampling each taxa. To measure species diversity, we conducted avian point counts, set invertebrate pitfall traps, and inventoried vascular plants in selected plots.

We will examine patterns of species assemblages and richness among plots to identify potential links with LDUs. These data will aid in assessing the utility of landscape-level features for predicting diversity in three distinct taxa.

       Updated: 14 November 2002