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Dispersal failure contributes to plant losses in NW Europe

Authors

  • Wim A. Ozinga,

    Corresponding author
    1. Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology Research Group, Department of Ecology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, NL-6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University and Research, Alterra, PO Box 47, NL-6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
      *E-mail: wim.ozinga@wur.nl
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  • Christine Römermann,

    1. Department of Physical Geography, University of Frankfurt am Main, PO Box 111932, D-60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
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  • Renée M. Bekker,

    1. Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, NL-9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands
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  • Andreas Prinzing,

    1. Université de Rennes 1, Unité Mixte de Recherche CNRS 6553 ‘Ecobio’: Ecosystèmes–Biodiversité–Evolution, Campus de Beaulieu, Bâtiment 14A, 263 Avenue du Général Leclerc, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France
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  • Wil L. M. Tamis,

    1. National Herbarium of the Netherlands, Leiden Branch/Institute of Environmental Sciences Leiden, PO Box 9518, NL-2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
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  • Joop H. J. Schaminée,

    1. Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology Research Group, Department of Ecology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, NL-6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University and Research, Alterra, PO Box 47, NL-6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Stephan M. Hennekens,

    1. Centre for Ecosystem Studies, Wageningen University and Research, Alterra, PO Box 47, NL-6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
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  • Ken Thompson,

    1. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
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  • Peter Poschlod,

    1. Institute of Botany, University of Regensburg, D-93040 Regensburg, Germany
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  • Michael Kleyer,

    1. Landscape Ecology Group, Carl-von-Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, D-26111 Oldenburg, Germany
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  • Jan P. Bakker,

    1. Community and Conservation Ecology Group, University of Groningen, PO Box 14, NL-9750 AA Haren, The Netherlands
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  • Jan M. Van Groenendael

    1. Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology Research Group, Department of Ecology, Radboud University Nijmegen, Toernooiveld 1, NL-6525 ED Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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*E-mail: wim.ozinga@wur.nl

Abstract

The ongoing decline of many plant species in Northwest Europe indicates that traditional conservation measures to improve the habitat quality, although useful, are not enough to halt diversity losses. Using recent databases, we show for the first time that differences between species in adaptations to various dispersal vectors, in combination with changes in the availability of these vectors, contribute significantly to explaining losses in plant diversity in Northwest Europe in the 20th century. Species with water- or fur-assisted dispersal are over-represented among declining species, while others (wind- or bird-assisted dispersal) are under-represented. Our analysis indicates that the ‘colonization deficit’ due to a degraded dispersal infrastructure is no less important in explaining plant diversity losses than the more commonly accepted effect of eutrophication and associated niche-based processes. Our findings call for measures that aim to restore the dispersal infrastructure across entire regions and that go beyond current conservation practices.

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