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Habitat loss and deterioration explain the disappearance of populations of threatened vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens in a hemiboreal landscape
- Pykälä, Juha
- Global ecology and conservation 2019 v.18 pp. e00610
- Bryophyta, biodiversity, forestry, habitat conservation, habitat destruction, habitats, landscapes, lichens, mining, pollution, population size, threatened species, vascular plants, Finland
- Why populations of threatened species disappear is among the key questions in conservation biology. However, very few local and regional studies have attempted to quantify the importance of the various causes. In this investigation, the status of the populations of threatened vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens found between the years 1860–1979 in a national biodiversity hot spot in SW Finland was studied during the years 1990–2008. Of the populations, 82% had disappeared and 18% were re-discovered. The disappearance rate of populations differed between habitats: exceeding 80% in most habitat types whilst being lowest on rock outcrops (58%). Complete destruction of all locally suitable habitats was the main reason for the disappearance of the populations (73%) concerned. Habitat deterioration (including partial habitat loss) was identified as the reason for the disappearance for 22% of the populations. Only for 5% of the populations could it not be revealed whether habitat quality had changed or not, but deterioration of habitat quality or habitat loss is possible even in these cases. For none of the disappeared populations was no change in habitat quality verified. In most cases, habitat loss and deterioration were caused by agriculture or forestry. These results support the conclusion that vascular plant, bryophyte and lichen populations in the boreal landscape have disappeared directly because their habitats have disappeared, declined in size or deteriorated due to forestry, agriculture, construction, mining and pollution. More subtle changes in habitat quality, fragmentation, problems related to small population size per se and other reasons may have contributed to only a few disappearances of local populations. The disappearance rate was similar between the study groups, but the relative importance of reasons for disappearance was different. The results emphasize the importance of habitat protection for threatened vascular plants, bryophytes and lichens.