Unexpectedly high 20th century floristic losses in a rural landscape in northern France
Article first published online: 15 JUL 2008
© 2008 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2008 British Ecological Society
Journal of Ecology
Volume 96, Issue 5, pages 927–936, September 2008
How to Cite
Van Calster, H., Vandenberghe, R., Ruysen, M., Verheyen, K., Hermy, M. and Decocq, G. (2008), Unexpectedly high 20th century floristic losses in a rural landscape in northern France. Journal of Ecology, 96: 927–936. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2008.01412.x
- Issue published online: 12 AUG 2008
- Article first published online: 15 JUL 2008
- Received 13 February 2008; accepted 28 May 2008Handling Editor: David Gibson
- agricultural intensification;
- biodiversity crisis;
- extinction rate;
- forest uses;
- land use change;
- secondary succession;
- 1Resurveys of regional floras allow assessment of long-term floristic change and to pinpoint driving forces behind these changes. Causes of floristic decline derived from such resurveys depend on the considered landscape, but are often associated with human activities especially in urbanized areas. Much could be learned from comparisons of contrasting landscapes.
- 2Vascular plant abundance categories from a detailed, late 19th century flora were matched with distribution data from a late 20th century plant database in a rural area (Thiérache; 1673 km2) in northern France. Floristic change was characterized both in absolute numbers of extinct and extant species and by a measure for relative change in range size. Knowledge of land use changes and ecological correlates of floristic change permitted the causes for species change to be inferred and to identify which traits are associated with species vulnerability. Extinction rates were compared with similar studies from contrasting landscapes, taking into account the negative relationship between standardized extinction rates and log-transformed size of the study area.
- 3Of the 959 species from the historical list, 186 (19.4%) may be considered regionally extinct. Most extinct species were already rare historically. Differences among habitats indicated strong declines for aquatic species and arable weeds and least change for forest species. Percentage species loss per year in Thiérache equalled 0.22, which was higher than two other similar sized predominantly rural landscapes.
- 4Across the main habitat groups, relative species decline was always associated with relatively higher stress tolerance and lower competitiveness and biased towards therophytes. The main causes of species decline were management intensification, eutrophication, secondary succession in semi-natural open habitats and land use change.
- 5Synthesis. Rural landscapes with no population density increase, no urbanization and a stable landscape configuration are believed to be less vulnerable; yet, on a relatively short time scale, without nature conservation measures, these landscapes may suffer strong species loss comparable to that in urbanized landscapes. Effective management of landscapes for biodiversity conservation whether they are urbanized or rural requires the development of a network of nature reserves.