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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowlegments

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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Correspondence to Maria Włodarska-Kowalczuk.

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Włodarska-Kowalczuk, M., Węsławski, J.M., Warzocha, J. et al. Habitat loss and possible effects on local species richness in a species-poor system: a case study of southern Baltic Sea macrofauna. Biodivers Conserv 19, 3991–4002 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9942-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-010-9942-6

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat loss
  • Macrozoobenthos
  • Baltic Sea