Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 14, pp 3991–4002 | Cite as

Habitat loss and possible effects on local species richness in a species-poor system: a case study of southern Baltic Sea macrofauna

  • Maria Włodarska-Kowalczuk
  • Jan Marcin Węsławski
  • Jan Warzocha
  • Urszula Janas
Original Paper


The effects of habitat loss on local species richness depend on the characteristics of the endangered system (including its total species pool and the distribution of species among the habitats). The present study focuses on the species-poor southern Baltic marine benthic biota. Macrobenthic samples were collected in three habitats: (1) soft bottom covered with vegetation; (2) stony reefs; (3) unvegetated sands. Fourty one percent of 54 observed macrozoobenthic species were habitat specific, while 30% occurred in all three habitats. There were no significant differences in total species richness among the three habitats. The accumulation curves plotted for subsets of data with selected habitats excluded lay below the curve plotted for the whole dataset, but only in one case the 95% confidence intervals of the subset curve did not overlap with those plotted for the whole dataset. The exclusion of samples from selected habitats produced a species richness drop ranging from 9 to 13%. The present study showed that habitat loss in a species-poor area with a relatively large ratio of generalist species cannot produce local species richness declines similar to those predicted for diverse marine systems. However, it must be emphasized that in species-poor systems, the loss of ecological function accompanying habitat loss could be disproportionally higher than that predicted based on decreases in species richness, as some functions are performed by a single species.


Biodiversity Habitat loss Macrozoobenthos Baltic Sea 



The present study was a part of the project “Ecosystem approach to marine spatial planning in Polish Marine Areas” PL0078, funded by Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein through EEA Financial Mechanism. Samples have been collected and processed in the laboratories of Sea Fishery Institute, Marine Institute in Gdańsk and University of Gdańsk.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Włodarska-Kowalczuk
    • 1
  • Jan Marcin Węsławski
    • 1
  • Jan Warzocha
    • 2
  • Urszula Janas
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Oceanology PASSopotPoland
  2. 2.Sea Fisheries InstituteGdyniaPoland
  3. 3.Institute of Oceanography, University of GdanskGdyniaPoland

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