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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 1998

Economic geography, forest distribution, and woodpecker diversity in central Europe

Mikusinski, Grzegorz; Angelstam, Per


To understand the complex mechanisms behind the recent biodiversity decline, it is necessary to complement traditional biological and ecological studies with studies of the economic, historic, and social contexts related to biodiversity loss, We used the completeness of the woodpecker guild as a biodiversity indicator to test the hypothesis that forest biodiversity in Europe is inversely related to the degree of urban-economic development. We related woodpecker diversity to several socioeconomic indices in 20 central European countries where the basic physiogeographic conditions are similar. As predicted, woodpecker diversity was low in highly developed countries with a long history of intensive land use, whereas in less-developed, peripheral countries, the woodpecker diversity was much higher and no species had been lost. The negative correlation between the degree of urbanization and woodpecker diversity was interpreted as a causal link between neotechnological landscape degradation and the decline of biodiversity. We discuss, and reject, alternative hypotheses related to the slow postglacial dispersal of species and climatic differences between western and eastern Europe that might explain the observed pattern of woodpecker diversity. The relative importance of particular woodpecker species for the level of woodpecker diversity shows that species depending on naturally dynamic temperature forests are particularly sensitive to anthropogenic changes. Finally, we stress the importance of bolistic studies on biodiversity, including ecological, geographical, and social issues, and we encourage specialists and practitioners from different disciplines to examine the European east-west gradient to learn how to avoid the same biodiversity loss in the East that has afflicted the West.

Published in

Conservation Biology
1998, volume: 12, number: 1, pages: 200-208

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Conservation Biology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Conservation Biology

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Publication Identifiers


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