The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

Photo of Ciara Dwyer

Ciara Dwyer

Postdoctoral fellow

Photo of Ciara Dwyer

Patterns of variation in plant diversity vary over different spatial levels in seasonal coastal wetlands


  • Ciara Dwyer
  • Jonathan Millett
  • Laurence Jones
  • Ruud P. Bartholomeus
  • Lisanne van Willegen
  • Anna Chavasse
  • Robin Pakeman

Summary, in English

To quantify the responses of alpha and beta diversity to multivariate gradients, incorporating variation in environmental and management variability in coastal dune slacks.

United Kingdom dune slacks.

Plant community composition, plant nutrient status and soil characteristics were measured for 164 quadrats in 41 dune slacks across 12 coastal sand dune systems. Data were collated on climate and atmospheric deposition. Hydrological regimes at daily resolution were modelled and calibrated using daily-to-monthly site measurements, from which we calculated quadrat-level hydrological metrics. Alpha diversity (richness, Shannon diversity and Pielou's evenness) metrics and beta diversity (turnover and nestedness) for species and genera were calculated across three spatial levels from sand dune system (highest) to dune slack to quadrat (lowest).

Diversity patterns depended on the spatial and taxonomic level considered. At smaller spatial levels (between dune slacks and between quadrats), alpha and beta diversity varied along gradients driven by soil characteristics, water table depth and atmospheric deposition. At larger spatial levels (between sand dune systems), patterns of beta diversity were a consequence of plant nutrient status. There was little variability in alpha diversity along this same gradient, with only small changes in Pielou's species evenness. Patterns at a coarser taxonomic level (genus) mirrored those at the species level.

Main conclusion
We show that patterns of variation in plant diversity are dependent on the spatial level considered, but taxonomic level made little difference in understanding these patterns. Therefore, if we do not consider patterns across different spatial levels, important environmental and management drivers could be missed. The high biodiversity value and degree of threat to these European protected habitats makes such understanding invaluable for their conservation.

Publishing year





Diversity and Distributions

Document type

Journal article




  • Ecology


  • Alpha diversity
  • Beta diversity
  • Dune slacks
  • Eco-hydrology
  • Plants
  • Spatial scale
  • Wetland




  • ISSN: 1366-9516