Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 8, pp 6221–6233 | Cite as

Using species spectra to evaluate plant community conservation value along a gradient of anthropogenic disturbance

  • José A. P. Marcelino
  • Luís Silva
  • Patricia V. Garcia
  • Everett Weber
  • António O. Soares


The aim of this study was to assess the impact of anthropogenic disturbance on the partitioning of plant communities (species spectra) across a landcover gradient of community types, categorizing species on the basis of their biogeographic, ecological, and conservation status. We tested a multinomial model to generate species spectra and monitor changes in plant assemblages as anthropogenic disturbance rise, as well as the usefulness of this method to assess the conservation value of a given community. Herbaceous and arborescent communities were sampled in five Azorean islands. Margins were also sampled to account for edge effects. Different multinomial models were applied to a data set of 348 plant species accounting for differences in parameter estimates among communities and/or islands. Different levels of anthropogenic disturbance produced measurable changes on species spectra. Introduced species proliferated and indigenous species declined, as anthropogenic disturbance and management intensity increased. Species assemblages of relevance other than economic (i.e., native, endemic, threatened species) were enclosed not only in natural habitats, but also in human managed arborescent habitats, which can positively contribute for the preservation of indigenous species outside remnants of natural areas, depending on management strategies. A significant presence of invasive species in margin transects of most community types will contribute to an increase in edge effect that might facilitate invasion. The multinomial model developed in this study was found to be a novel and expedient tool to characterize the species spectra at a given community and its use could be extrapolated for other assemblages or organisms, in order to evaluate and forecast the conservation value of a site.


Anthropogenic disturbance Bayesian inference Biodiversity Multinomial model Species spectra 



We thank Mr. Roberto Resendes and Mr. João Moniz for field assistance as well as Eng. Dina Gonçalves and Dr. Pedro Rodrigues for technical support. We also thank the Forest Service of Pico, Flores, and Santa Maria Islands for logistic assistance and lab space as well as CITA-A at Terceira Island. This work was supported by a grant from the Fundo Regional Ciência e Tecnologia, Regional Government of the Azores and PROEMPREGO and the research project “PRO-BIO, Profiling Reliable Organisms as Bioindicators: an integrated approach for island systems” financed by FLAD (Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento).

Supplementary material

10661_2012_3019_MOESM1_ESM.docx (16 kb)
Supplemental Annex 1 (DOCX 16.3 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • José A. P. Marcelino
    • 1
    • 2
  • Luís Silva
    • 3
  • Patricia V. Garcia
    • 1
    • 2
  • Everett Weber
    • 4
  • António O. Soares
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.CIRN, Department of BiologyUniversity of the AzoresPonta DelgadaPortugal
  2. 2.Azorean Biodiversity Group (GBA, CITA-A) and Portuguese Platform for Enhancing Ecological Research and Sustainability (PEERS), Departamento de Ciências AgráriasUniversidade dos AçoresAngra do HeroísmoPortugal
  3. 3.Department BiologyUniversity of the AzoresPonta DelgadaPortugal
  4. 4.Department of BiologyMurray State UniversityMurrayUSA

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