Turkish Journal of Botany




During the past decades, extensive parts of the Quercus brantii woodlands in the Zagros Mountains declined in size and habitat quality. We aimed to explore the variation of oak woodlands in the southern Zagros Mountains and to assess the vulnerability. The following questions were addressed in the study: Which edaphic and physiographic parameters are most important in differentiating woodland vegetation? Which plant species express certain habitat quality and vulnerability characteristics? We examined 49 plots at different altitudes and aspects, recorded the vascular plant species for tree and herb-layer composition, and collected data on topographic and edaphic factors. TWINSPAN was applied to classify the plots. We identified three types of woodland plant communities that show differentiation associated with environmental factors. Most vulnerable types stand at lower altitudes, chiefly on southern aspects and with poor soil fertility. The highest tree-layer ? diversity was observed at steeper slopes around the north at higher altitudes, on fertile fine soils rich in organic matter. Longitude, altitude, and slope were correlated with the soil factors and the vegetation composition. Soil erosion and the removal of fine organic soil resulted in forest degradation and loss of habitat quality. Facilitation of regeneration of Quercus brantii as keystone species in the forests of the Zagros mountain range is concluded as a crucial management objective to buffer the negative effects of climate change and overexploitation. The protection of larger areas of Q. brantii woodlands to conserve local-scale species and community diversity is imperative.

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