We analyze the spatial patterns of natural dune cover patches and their plant richness, comparing coastal sites with different levels of human pressure in central Italy. We created a detailed land cover map of dune sites. The spatial pattern of natural dune cover types was characterized by computing a set of patch-based metrics. To quantify patch plant richness, we used 16 m2 vegetation plots, randomly distributed on coastal dune cover types. For each patch, the richness of the entire pool of species and of three guilds (i.e., typical dune, ruderal, and alien species) was considered. We compared different levels of human pressure on coastal dunes focusing on pattern metrics and floristic information by using the nonparametric Kruskal – Wallis test. In sites with high human pressure, we have observed a general simplification in the natural dune spatial pattern and a decline of plant richness but with a specific response for each cover type. Alien and ruderal species presented low richness in all patches. In coastal dunes, the harsh ecological conditions and the strong sea–inland gradient shape the distribution of human activities and control the number of ruderal species. The approach effectively describes fragmentation and biodiversity in dune ecosystems
Malavasi, M., Santoro, R., Cutini, M., Acosta, A.T.R., Carranza, M.L. (2016). The impact of human pressure on landscape patterns and plant species richness in Mediterranean coastal dunes. PLANT BIOSYSTEMS, 150(1), 73-83 [10.1080/11263504.2014.913730].