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Keywords:

  • Deciduous forest;
  • Fragmented landscape;
  • Habitat quality;
  • Multivariate logistic regression;
  • Obligate forest species;
  • Patch area;
  • Patch isolation;
  • RDA;
  • Variation partitioning

In present day European landscapes many forest plant species are restricted to isolated remnants of a formerly more or less continuous forest cover. The two major objectives of this study were (1) to determine the relative importance of habitat quality (mainly in terms of soil parameters), habitat configuration (patch size and isolation) and habitat continuity for the distribution of herbaceous forest plant species in a highly fragmented landscape and (2) to examine if groups of species with different habitat requirements are affected differently. Deciduous forest patches in northwestern Germany were surveyed for the presence of a large set of forest species. For each patch, habitat quality, configuration and continuity were determined. Data were analysed by Redundancy Analysis with variation partitioning for effects on total species composition and multivariate logistic regression for effects on individual species, for two different data sets (base-rich and base-poor forest patches). Overall, we found strong effects of habitat quality (particularly of soil pH, water content and topographic heterogeneity in the base-rich forest patches; and of calcium content and disturbance in the base-poor patches), but only relatively weak effects of habitat configuration and habitat continuity. However, a number of species were positively affected by patch area and negatively affected by patch isolation. Furthermore, the relative importance of habitat configuration tended to be higher for species predominantly growing in closed forests compared to species occurring both in the forest and in the open landscape.