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Botanical processes in urban derelict spaces

Austin, Kevin Charles (2003)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This thesis set out to investigate the processes that determine the richness and composition of plant communities on derelict land in the West Midlands. Experimental work included vegetation surveys, soil seed bank investigation, field mapping and seed rain trapping methods. Interpretation of the data involved a range of approaches including vegetation classification and ordination, comparative analysis of plant functional attributes and the development of regression models incorporating landscape and habitat variables. Derelict habitats were identified as holding a diverse array of communities at the early stages of succession which are poorly represented by current vegetation classifications, functional diversity is however much lower in pioneer communities. The majority of these species employing the expected strategies of early succession notably high reproductive capacity and seeds which are small, highly dispersive and form persistent seed banks. Dense seed banks were typically formed on sites and were dominated by a small set of consistently occurring species. Changes in seed bank density and composition were consistent with time represented both by the chronosequence of sites and increasing soil depth. Little evidence was found to suggest that diversity or species composition is linked to site connectivity related to either patch density or the presence of linear features. These findings have considerable implications for application of principles of metapopulation and island biogeography principles to urban conservation. In particular the trend for planners to designate urban wildlife corridors is questioned as being probably of no benefit to native diversity and indeed these features are identified as being instead potentially significant pathways for invasive alien species. The most important factors influencing the composition of sites were seen to be those linked closely with past and present human activity. Particularly significant are the nature of dereliction substrates and haphazard disturbances such as fire and tipping which influence vegetation succession temporally and spatially.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Angold, Penny G.
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Subjects:GE Environmental Sciences
QK Botany
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:329
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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