Naturally disturbed coastal dunes have become strongly reduced during the last century due to the cessation of grazing by domestic herbivores, dune stabilization initiatives, and increasing nitrogen deposition, all promoting encroachment by grasses, shrubs and woody plants. We assessed the effects of three disturbance types (burning, trampling and blowouts) on plant and arthropod species richness and composition in dry coastal dunes in Jutland, Denmark. Environmental variables, plant presence–absence and arthropod abundance were measured in 150 1 × 2 m plots along transects in blowouts, burned areas, trampled paths and their paired controls. We used Nonmetric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) ordination to assess differences in species composition of disturbed areas and controls. Ordination scores were used as response variables in Linear Mixed Effect (LME) models to test for the effects of disturbances on plant and arthropod composition. Indicator species analysis revealed plant and arthropod species indicative for different disturbances. Plant and arthropod species richness and the number of annual plant species generally increased with disturbance, and plant and arthropod richness and composition responded differently to different disturbances. Arthropod communities were more diverse in disturbed plots and hosted species often found in early successional habitats of potential conservation value. Disturbance promoted β-diversity, but affected plants more than arthropods, likely because of the difference in colonization potential. A combination of disturbances maximized diversity, suggesting that re-installment of a diverse disturbance regime should be considered in dune management.
Biological Conservation, 2015, Vol 182, p. 243-253
β-diversity; Blowout; Burning; Conservation; Indicator species analyses; Trampling