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Taxonomic homogenization of woodland plant communities over 70 years

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
  • Sal Keith
  • Adrian Newton
  • Michael D. Morecroft
  • Clive Bealey
  • James Bullock
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>22/07/2009
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B
Number of pages6
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date22/07/09
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Taxonomic homogenization (TH) is the increasing similarity of the species composition of ecological communities over time. Such homogenization represents a form of biodiversity loss and can result from local species turnover. Evidence for TH is limited, reflecting a lack of suitable historical datasets, and previous analyses have generated contrasting conclusions. We present an analysis of woodland patches across a southern English county (Dorset) in which we quantified 70 years of change in the composition of vascular plant communities. We tested the hypotheses that over this time patches decreased in species richness, homogenized, or shifted towards novel communities. Although mean species richness at the patch scale did not change, we found increased similarity in species composition among woodlands over time. We concluded that the woodlands have undergone TH without experiencing declines in local diversity or shifts towards novel communities. Analysis of species characteristics suggested that these changes were not driven by non-native species invasions or climate change, but instead reflected reorganization of the native plant communities in response to eutrophication and increasingly shaded conditions. These analyses provide, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence of TH in the UK and highlight the potential importance of this phenomenon as a contributor to biodiversity loss.