Spatial Patterns in Plant Diversity
The present study is divided into two parts: Firstly, null models where used to test whether plant communities in a New Zealand forest were assembled deterministically or stochastically. Secondly, a relationship between a plant trait; Leaf Mass per Area (LMA) and environmental conditions was investigated in a New Zealand forest. For the first study abundance of adult species was recorded in thirty 30m x 30m plots at Otari Wilton's Bush. In a subsample of six plots, the abundance of seedling species was also recorded. Null models for species co-occurrence, species richness, species abundance and niche overlap were used in order to establish how plant communities assemble at Otari Wilton's Bush. There was evidence of both determinist and stochasticity in some aspects of the plant community, it appears that seedlings are mainly randomly assembled whereas, determinism appears to be the main driver of community composition for mature trees. Results therefore suggest a pluralistic approach should be used in order to explain plant community patterns at Otari Wilton's Bush. For the second study, of all species observed in the first study only those species found in five or more of the plots were examined. For those species, the height of the two highest individuals was measured. From each individual, six fully exposed leaves were collected and measured. Measurements of environmental conditions were also collected for all plots. Principal component analysis and multiple regression was used to analyse the data. Height related (vertical) trends were observed for three surveyed species such that LMA significantly increased with plant height. Horizontal patterns were observed for two species, and for three species it was not possible to distinguish the association of tree height (vertical) and position along the forest (horizontal) with LMA. Potentially, by including more species in future studies a clearer pattern will be observed. It could also be that different species display different strategies regarding LMA and if so, a study more focused on individual species in isolation may be able to provide more informative explanations.