Habitat fragmentation causes immediate and time-delayed biodiversity loss at different trophic levels

Jochen Krauss, Riccardo Bommarco, Moisès Guardiola, Risto K. Heikkinen, Aveliina Helm, Mikko Kuussaari, Regina Lindborg, Erik Öckinger, Meelis Pärtel, Joan Pino, Juha Pöyry, Katja M. Raatikainen, Anu Sang, Constantí Stefanescu, Tiit Teder, Martin Zobel, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

527 Citations (Scopus)


Intensification or abandonment of agricultural land use has led to a severe decline of semi-natural habitats across Europe. This can cause immediate loss of species but also time-delayed extinctions, known as the extinction debt. In a pan-European study of 147 fragmented grassland remnants, we found differences in the extinction debt of species from different trophic levels. Present-day species richness of long-lived vascular plant specialists was better explained by past than current landscape patterns, indicating an extinction debt. In contrast, short-lived butterfly specialists showed no evidence for an extinction debt at a time scale of c. 40 years. Our results indicate that management strategies maintaining the status quo of fragmented habitats are insufficient, as time-delayed extinctions and associated co-extinctions will lead to further biodiversity loss in the future. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/CNRS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-605
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Conservation
  • Extinction cascades
  • Extinction debt
  • Grassland communities
  • Habitat loss
  • Habitat management
  • Landscape change
  • Relaxation time
  • Species longevity


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