Possible effects of habitat fragmentation and climate change on the range of forest plant species


  • Editor, N. G. Yoccoz

Correspondence to: Olivier Honnay E-mail: olivier.honnay@agr.kuleuven.ac.be


Global circulation models predict an increase in mean annual temperature between 2.1 and 4.6 °C by 2080 in the northern temperate zone. The associated changes in the ratio of extinctions and colonizations at the boundaries of species ranges are expected to result in northward range shifts for a lot of species. However, net species colonization at northern boundary ranges, necessary for a northward shift and for range conservation, may be hampered because of habitat fragmentation. We report the results of two forest plant colonization studies in two fragmented landscapes in central Belgium. Almost all forest plant species (85%) had an extremely low success of colonizing spatially segregated new suitable forest habitats after c. 40 years. In a landscape with higher forest connectivity, colonization success was higher but still insufficient to ensure large-scale colonization. Under the hypothesis of net extinction at southern range boundaries, forest plant species dispersal limitation will prevent net colonization at northern range boundaries required for range conservation.