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Multiscale Patterns of Riparian Plant Diversity and Implications for Restoration

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Planning riparian restoration to resemble historic reference conditions requires an understanding of both local and regional patterns of plant species diversity. Thus, understanding species distributions at multiple spatial scales is essential to improve restoration planting success, to enhance long-term ecosystem functioning, and to match restoration planting designs with historic biogeographic distributions. To inform restoration planning, we examined the biogeographic patterns of riparian plant diversity at local and regional scales within a major western U.S.A. drainage, California's Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley. We analyzed patterns of species richness and complementarity (β-diversity) across two scales: the watershed scale and the floodplain scale. At the watershed scale, spatial patterns of native riparian richness were driven by herbaceous species, whereas woody species were largely cosmopolitan across the nearly 38,000 km 2 study area. At the floodplain scale, riparian floras reflected species richness and dissimilarity patterns related to hydrological and disturbance-driven successional sequences. These findings reinforce the importance of concurrently evaluating both local and regional processes that promote species diversity and distribution of native riparian flora. Furthermore, as restoration activities become more prevalent across the landscape, strategies for restoration outcomes should emulate the patterns of species diversity and biogeographic distributions found at regional scales. © 2011 Society for Ecological Restoration International.

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