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Ukr. Bot. J. 2018, 75(5): 405–420
General Issues, Reviews and Discussions

Biotope as a system: structure, dynamics, and ecosystem services

Didukh Ya.P.

The concept of conservation of biotic and landscape diversity facilitated the introduction of systemic and ecological approaches into the field of nature conservation, thus stimulating the development of biotope classification. Biotopes are considered to be ecosystems of a topological level, which lose their integrity once divided. Since biotopes can include distinct yet functionally interconnected syntaxa, the scope of topological and typological units that make up a biotope can differ. Such differences can be caused by substitution as well as combination of constituent elements. Substitution occurs when some syntaxa can be attributed to different biotopes, or when biotopes of the same type are comprised of different syntaxa. Examples of communities that are attributed to different biotopes, namely, forest (Dicrano-Pinion, Fagion sylvaticae) and marsh (Salicion cinereae) communities, and examples of biotopes with substitution of constituent elements in some of their areas (G 3.9 Coniferous woodland dominated by Cupressaceae or Taxaceae, 8120 Temperate montane calcareous and ultra-basic screes) are given. Combination of constituent elements is evident when a biotope includes a certain set of syntaxa, which sometimes can belong to different classes. Biotope development is determined by the change in the ecological potential, which is interpreted as difference between the potential capacity of eco-space and its actual capacity. Potential capacity of eco-space is determined by the environment, whereas its actual capacity is determined by the biotope structure, nature of biomass distribution, and accumulation and transformation of energy. The novel aspect of this approach is that development is interpreted much wider than merely succession of phytocoenoses. Development is considered here as a process of fluctuating, successive, and synevolutional changes which occur at different rates and are defined by the predominance of certain species with various ecological (R, C, S) strategies (Grime, Pierce, 2012). Thus, species with R-strategy determine fluctuation, species with C-strategy determine succession, species with S-strategy define synevolution. Synevolution is caused by the changes in species’ adaptations and co-evolutionary relationships relative to environmental changes, thus altering eco-space capacity. Biotopes are integral to evaluation of ecosystem services. Predominant types of ecological strategies of species comprising biotopes are crucial for assessment of biotopes’ ecosystem services. Species with R-strategy are characteristic of the resource type of ecosystem services, species with C-strategy are characteristic of the functional type of ecosystem services, and species with S strategy are characteristic of scientific-informative type of ecosystem services. Biotopes of the functional type are most susceptible to anthropogenic impact and climate changes. Since development of functional biotopes is determined by the successive changes, appropriate measures, e.g., a management plan, are required for their conservation.

Keywords: biotope, syntaxon, system, structure, development, synevolution, strategy, ecosystem services

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