Calcicole–calcifuge plant strategies limit restoration potential in a regional semi-arid flora
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Aim: To examine calcicole and calcifuge plant strategies, as well as nutrient-acquisition strategies, as drivers of the distribution of species in response to edaphic factors, and the degree to which these strategies may act as filters to species establishment in ecological restoration on heavily altered or reconstructed substrates.
Location: An 82,000-ha area within a major mining province in the Mid-West region of Western Australia, harboring vegetation communities ranging from species-poor halophytic scrub on saline flats to dense biodiverse shrubland on the skeletal soils of ancient Banded Ironstone Formations (BIF).
Methods: Univariate and multivariate analyses were employed to examine how variation in soil chemistry and landscape position (undulating plains, slopes, and BIF crests and ridges) influenced patterns of floristic diversity, calcifuge plant strategies, and nutrient-acquisition strategies in 538 plant species from 830 relevés.
Results: Landscape position was the strongest driver of species richness and vegetation functional composition. Soils became increasingly acidic and P-impoverished along an increasing elevational gradient. Vegetation from different landscape positions was not compositionally dissimilar, but vegetation of BIF crests and ridges was up to twice as biodiverse as vegetation from adjacent lower-relief areas and harbored higher proportions of calcifuge species and species with mycorrhizal associations.
Main conclusions: Topographic and edaphic complexity of BIF landforms in an otherwise relatively homogenous landscape has likely facilitated species accumulation over long time periods. They represent musea of regional floristic biodiversity, excluding only species that cannot establish or are inferior competitors in heavily weathered, acidic, skeletal, and nutrient-impoverished soils. Plant strategies likely represent a major filter in establishing biodiverse, representative vegetation on postmining landforms in geologically ancient regions.
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