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Understanding plant diversity maintenance in a multi-species metapopulation system in highly variable fire prone environment (PLANT METAPOPULATION)
Start date: 01 Nov 2007, End date: 31 Oct 2010 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Mediterranean-climate ecosystems (e.g. Mediterranean Basin, Southwest Australia) are biodiversity hot spots for vascular plants. Some fire adapted plant species of the Proteaecae family of the South African Cape floristic region and the Southwest Australia n sandplains, which are killed by fires (non-sprouters) and storing their seeds in canopies (serotiny), are one of the rare examples of real plant metapopulations.The biodiversity of these Mediterranean ecosystems is under severe and increasing threat (e. g. invasive species, habitat loss and climate change). In order to improve the conservation status of such multi-species metapopulation systems by suitable management actions, a sound understanding of the key ecosystem processes, such as disturbance, is essential.Simulation studies are an excellent tool for summarizing the available (empirical) data and expert knowledge, and to extrapolate this information to larger temporal and spatial scales relevant to planning for management and conservation. In contrast to previous conceptual multi-species metapopulation models, this study will be based on long-term comprehensive field data and expert knowledge from Mediterranean-type shrublands of the Eneabba Sandplain, South-western Australia.The pattern-orientated modelling approach will be applied, i.e. several independent observed patterns will be systematically compared with the simulation results to devise a structurally realistic simulation model. For this comparison, suitable statistical tools and measures nee d to be developed. Finally, the complex model results and dynamics will be aggregated with appropriate methods (e.g. ordinary differential equation (ODE) models with effective parameters).Aggregated models, parameterized by simulation studies, facilitate generalization of the results and the determination of rules of thumb, which are extremely relevant both in communication with stakeholders as well as for general insights in ecological theory.
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