Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 1067–1085 | Cite as

Relative importance of habitat area, connectivity, management and local factors for vascular plants: spring ephemerals in boreal semi-natural grasslands

  • Katja M. RaatikainenEmail author
  • Risto K. Heikkinen
  • Miska Luoto
Original Paper


Using species and environmental data from an extensive grassland area in south-western Finland, we investigated the effect of patch area and connectivity, management and local habitat variables on the occurrence of spring-flowering vascular plants and their richness in boreal agricultural landscapes. Generalized linear models (GLM) and variation partitioning were used to study the explanatory power of the three groups of variables and their combined contributions on the richness and occurrence of six spring-flowering plant species. Generalized additive models (GAMs) and associated cross-validation tests were used to evaluate the predictability of the species occurrence and richness patterns. Present-day grassland patch area and connectivity were important predictors for occurrence and richness of the studied plant species. In addition, local habitat factors, especially radiation, accounted for major fractions of occurrence patterns of the studied species. Hybrid models including variables from all three variable groups had higher explanatory power and predictive capability than partial models. However, performance of the separate single-species models varied considerably between the six study species. Exclusion of radiation or connectivity from the hybrid models decreased their predictive performance, suggesting that these factors are of particular importance for grassland plant species at their northern range margins. When developing conservation and management planning for grassland plant species in Northern Europe, attention should be paid to well-connected networks of grassland patches including large, steeply-sloped patches with a favorable microclimate.


Connectivity Habitat area Model performance Predictive capability Radiation Semi-natural grassland Spring flowering plant 



The data on plant species were collected by Miska Luoto, Tuuli Toivonen, Jere Salminen, Tea von Bonsdorff. Juha Pöyry and an anonymous referee gave useful comments on this paper. This research was funded by the Maj and Thor Nessling Foundation (grant number 2005289), the 6th framework EU-project COCONUT SSPI-CT-2006-044343 and the Academy of Finland (project grant 116544). Michael Bailey helped with the correction of the English text.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katja M. Raatikainen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Risto K. Heikkinen
    • 1
  • Miska Luoto
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Programme for BiodiversityFinnish Environment InstituteHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Metsähallitus Natural Heritage ServicesVantaaFinland
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland

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