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Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Time-lag effects of habitat loss, but not fragmentation, on deadwood-dwelling lichens

Haemaelaeinen, Aino; Fahrig, Lenore


Context Landscape habitat amount is known to increase biodiversity, while the effects of habitat fragmentation are still debated. It has been suggested that negative fragmentation effects may occur with a time lag, which could explain inconsistent results. However, there is so far no empirical support for this idea.Objectives We evaluated whether habitat amount and fragmentation at the landscape scale affect the species density of deadwood-dwelling lichens, and whether these effects occur with a time lag.Methods We surveyed deadwood-dwelling lichens in woodland key habitats in two regions in northern Sweden, and modelled their species density as a function of past (1960s) and present (2010s) habitat amount (old forest area) and fragmentation (edge density) in the surrounding landscapes.Results Present habitat amount generally had weak positive effects on lichen species density. Positive effects of the past habitat amount were stronger, indicating a time lag in habitat amount effects. Habitat fragmentation effects were generally weak and similar whether fragmentation was measured in the past or the present landscapes, indicating no time lag in fragmentation effects.Conclusions We found a time lag effect of habitat amount, but not fragmentation. This result is not consistent with suggestions that time lags explain the mixed observations of fragmentation effects. Time-lag effects of habitat amount suggest that the studied lichen communities face an extinction debt. Conservation should therefore prioritize increasing the amount of old forest, for example by creating forest reserves, to maintain the current lichen diversity. More generally, our results imply that studies examining only the present habitat amount risk under-estimating its importance.


Time lags; Extinction debt; Fragmentation per se; Dead wood; Cryptogams

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2024, Volume: 39, number: 6, article number: 111
Publisher: SPRINGER

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