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What are the most crucial soil variables for predicting the distribution of mountain plant species? a comprehensive study in the Swiss Alps

Citation

Buri, Aline et al. (2021), What are the most crucial soil variables for predicting the distribution of mountain plant species? a comprehensive study in the Swiss Alps, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.fttdz08p7

Abstract

Aim: To investigate the potential of a large range of soil variables to improve topo-climatic models of plant species distributions in a temperate mountain region encompassing complex relief. Location: The western Swiss Alps. Methods: Fitting topo-climatic models for >60 plant species across >250 sites with and without added soil predictor variables (>30). Testing included: (i) which soil variables improve plant species distribution models; (ii) whether an optimal subset of soil variables can improve models for the majority of species and habitat types; and (iii) how much variation in plant species distributions soil variables alone explain. Results: Geochemical variables (i.e., CaO, pH and inorganic carbon) and a drainage indicator (i.e., bulk soil water content) improved the predictive abilities of the models across the large majority of alpine plant species. The improvement of the models after the addition of soil information varied strongly between plant species and habitat types, but a trade-off was found between the number of soil variables and the associated gain in model performance. Finally, across all species, one specific combination of soil variables–bulk soil water content + total phosphorus + δ13C–outperformed the commonly used topo-climatic variables. Main conclusions: Several soil variables significantly increased the predictive power of plant species distribution models in the temperate mountain region. Geochemical and drainage variables proved most important.