Plant Ecology

, Volume 213, Issue 2, pp 327–338 | Cite as

Grassland plant functional groups exhibit distinct time-lags in response to historical landscape change

  • Tomoyo Koyanagi
  • Yoshinobu Kusumoto
  • Shori Yamamoto
  • Satoru Okubo
  • Nobusuke Iwasaki
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi


Recent studies have shown significant impacts of past landscapes on present distributions of species, and discussed the existence of an extinction debt. Understanding of the processes building an extinction debt is fundamentally important for explaining present and future diversity patterns of species in fragmented landscapes. Few empirical studies, however, have examined the responses of different plant functional groups (PFGs) to historical landscape changes. We aimed to reveal PFG-based differences in species’ persistence by focusing on their vegetative, reproductive, and dispersal traits. We examined whether the present distributions of PFGs of grassland species in the edges of remnant woodlands established on former semi-natural grasslands are related to the past surrounding landscapes at different time periods and spatial scales. The effects of past landscapes varied significantly among the PFGs. Richness of short, early flowering forbs and tall, late-flowering, wind-dispersed forbs showed significant positive relationships with the surrounding habitat proportions more than 50 years ago (the 1950s) and at wide spatial scales (more than 1 km2). Richness of tall, late-flowering forbs with unassisted and other types of dispersal mechanisms showed positive relationships with the surrounding habitat proportions in recent times (the 1970s) and at smaller spatial scales (0.25 km2). Our results suggested that plant growth form, flowering season and dispersal ability—with additional information on seed bank persistence—can be good indicators for identifying species’ specific sensitivity to surrounding habitat loss. Trait-based approaches can be useful for understanding present and future distributions of grassland species with different persistence strategies in human-modified landscapes.


Landscape history Habitat fragmentation Extinction debt Relaxation time Semi-natural grassland Dispersal distance 

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 17 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 186 kb)
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Supplementary material 4 (PDF 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tomoyo Koyanagi
    • 1
  • Yoshinobu Kusumoto
    • 1
  • Shori Yamamoto
    • 1
  • Satoru Okubo
    • 2
  • Nobusuke Iwasaki
    • 1
  • Kazuhiko Takeuchi
    • 2
  1. 1.Biodiversity DivisionNational Institute for Agro-Environmental SciencesTsukubaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Ecosystem Studies, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan

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