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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Super-regional land-use change and effects on the grassland specialist flora

Auffret, Alistair G.; Kimberley, Adam; Plue, Jan; Walden, Emelie


Habitat loss through land-use change is the most pressing threat to biodiversity worldwide. European semi-natural grasslands have suffered an ongoing decline since the early twentieth century, but we have limited knowledge of how grassland loss has affected biodiversity across large spatial scales. We quantify land-use change over 50-70 years across a 175,000 km(2) super-region in southern Sweden, identifying a widespread loss of open cover and a homogenisation of landscape structure, although these patterns vary considerably depending on the historical composition of the landscape. Analysing species inventories from 46,796 semi-natural grasslands, our results indicate that habitat loss and degradation have resulted in a decline in grassland specialist plant species. Local factors are the best predictors of specialist richness, but the historical landscape predicts present-day richness better than the contemporary landscape. This supports the widespread existence of time-lagged biodiversity responses, indicating that further species losses could occur in the future.


habitat loss; biodiversity; semi-natural grasslands; landscape structure; Sweden

Published in

Nature Communications
2018, volume: 9, article number: 3464

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Stockholm University
University of York
Kimberley, Adam
Stockholm University
Plue, Jan
Stockholm University
Waldén, Emelie
Stockholm University

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land

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