Soils and Biogeography

Landscape ecology is a subfield of ecology that examines the patterns and interactions between communities that make up relatively large areas. At this level of ecological scale, the pattern of soil types on a landscape may have important ecological consequences. One of these consequences is diversity (species richness, evenness). In a sense, patches of one soil type in a matrix of another are like islands in the sea (Figure 3), and thus can be subjected to the ideas of Island Biogeography. Island Biogeography holds that the number of species present on an island is primarily determined by the size of the island and by its distance from sources of colonists. Thus, relatively small patches of unusual soils (i.e., edaphic islands) that are far from similar patches would be expected to have fewer species than large patches close to other areas of similar soils. This has been confirmed by recent studies of the flora on patches of serpentine soils in California.

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