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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Sensitivity to habitat fragmentation across European landscapes in three temperate forest herbs

Naaf, Tobias; Feigs, Jannis Till; Huang, Siyu; Brunet, Joerg; Cousins, Sara A. O.; Decocq, Guillaume; De Frenne, Pieter; Diekmann, Martin; Govaert, Sanne; Hedwall, Per-Ola; Helsen, Kenny; Lenoir, Jonathan; Liira, Jaan; Meeussen, Camille; Plue, Jan; Poli, Pedro; Spicher, Fabien; Vangansbeke, Pieter; Vanneste, Thomas; Verheyen, Kris;
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Context Evidence for effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on the viability of temperate forest herb populations in agricultural landscapes is so far based on population genetic studies of single species in single landscapes. However, forest herbs differ in their life histories, and landscapes have different environments, structures and histories, making generalizations difficult. Objectives We compare the response of three slow-colonizing forest herbs to habitat loss and fragmentation and set this in relation to differences in life-history traits, in particular their mating system and associated pollinators. Methods We analysed the herbs' landscape-scale population genetic structure based on microsatellite markers from replicate forest fragments across seven European agricultural landscapes. Results All species responded to reductions in population size with a decrease in allelic richness and an increase in genetic differentiation among populations. Genetic differentiation also increased with enhanced spatial isolation. In addition, each species showed unique responses. Heterozygosity in the self-compatible Oxalis acetosella was reduced in smaller populations. The genetic diversity of Anemone nemorosa, whose main pollinators are less mobile, decreased with increasing spatial isolation, but not that of the bumblebee-pollinated Polygonatum multiflorum. Conclusions Our study indicates that habitat loss and fragmentation compromise the long-term viability of slow-colonizing forest herbs despite their ability to persist for many decades by clonal propagation. The distinct responses of the three species studied within the same landscapes confirm the need of multi-species approaches. The mobility of associated pollinators should be considered an important determinant of forest herbs' sensitivity to habitat loss and fragmentation.


Connectivity; Genetic differentiation; Genetic diversity; Mating system; Pollinator mobility; Population size

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2021, volume: 36, number: 10, pages: 2831-2848
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Naaf, Tobias
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Feigs, Jannis Till
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Huang, Siyu
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Cousins, Sara A. O.
Stockholm University
Decocq, Guillaume
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
De Frenne, Pieter
Ghent University
Diekmann, Martin
University of Bremen
Govaert, Sanne
Ghent University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre
Helsen, Kenny
National Taiwan University
Lenoir, Jonathan
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
Liira, Jaan
University of Tartu
Meeussen, Camille
Ghent University
Plue, Jan
No organisation
Poli, Pedro
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
Spicher, Fabien
Universite de Picardie Jules Verne (UPJV)
Vangansbeke, Pieter
Ghent University
Vanneste, Thomas
Ghent University
Verheyen, Kris
Ghent University
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