- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
1. Habitat loss leading to smaller patch sizes and decreasing connectivity is a major threat to global biodiversity. While some species vanish immediately after a change in habitat conditions, others show delayed extinction, that is, an extinction debt. In case of an extinction debt, the current species richness is higher than expected under present habitat conditions. 2. We investigated wetlands of the canton of Zürich in the lowlands of Eastern Switzerland where a wetland loss of 90% over the last 150 years occurred. We related current species richness to current and past patch area and connectivity (in 1850, 1900, 1950, and 2000). We compared current with predicted species richness in wetlands with a substantial loss in patch area based on the species‐area relationship of wetlands without substantial loss in patch area and studied relationships between the richness of different species groups and current and historical area and connectivity of wetland patches. 3. We found evidence of a possible extinction debt for long‐lived wetland specialist vascular plants: in wetlands, which substantially lost patch area, current species richness of long‐lived specialist vascular plants was higher than would have been expected based on current patch area. Additionally and besides current wetland area, historical area also explained current species richness of these species in a substantial and significant way. No evidence for an extinction debt in bryophytes was found. 4. The possible unpaid extinction debt in the wetlands of the canton of Zürich is an appeal to nature conservation, which has the possibility to prevent likely future extinctions of species through specific conservation measures. In particular, a further reduction in wetlands must be prevented and restoration measures must be taken to increase the number of wetlands. Show more
Journal / seriesEcology and Evolution
Pages / Article No.
Subjectbryophytes; extinction debt; habitat area; habitat fragmentation; nature conservation; vascular plants; wetlands
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