Many areas in Europe are dominated by agricultural land use, and as a consequence, many typical forest plant species suffer from habitat loss and fragmentation. Hedgerows, one of the common elements of rural landscapes, have been considered as potential refuges for these species. The main objective of this study was to examine whether forests and hedgerows differ in environmental conditions, and whether important life-history attributes of the populations differ between the two habitat types. We selected five species commonly found in the region in both forests and hedgerows (Adoxa moschatellina, Anemone nemorosa, Circaea lutetiana, Polygonatum multiflorum and Stellaria holostea), and sampled data on 10 populations of each species in each habitat type, including measurements of light and various soil factors. Hedgerows had higher relative light availability and tended to have higher soil nutrient contents and lower soil water values than forests. The comparison of plant performance values between habitat types did not show consistent patterns across species. Anemone and Polygonatum performed equally well in hedgerows and forests, whereas Stellaria appeared to have a higher fitness in hedgerows. In contrast, Circaea showed a higher reproduction under forest conditions. For Adoxa, the results were somewhat contradictory: whereas the reproductive output of this species was higher in forests, population density was higher in hedgerows. The abiotic factors most closely related to the performance values were relative light and soil water availability. The majority of plant performance values did not differ between hedgerows and forests. We therefore conclude that the tested forest species are capable of growing also in hedgerows and will survive equally well in forest and its “surrogate” habitat.
Agricultural land use Light availability Plant performance Reproductive output Soil nutrients
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We are grateful for the grant to S.W. from the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU). We also thank our colleagues at the University of Bremen and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and constructive suggestions on the earlier versions of this article.
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