Habitat fragmentation resulting from anthropogenic land-use change may negatively affect both biodiversity and ecosystem structure and function. However, susceptibility to fragmentation varies between species and may be influenced by for instance specialization, functional traits and trophic level. We examined how total and specialist species richness, species composition and functional trait composition at two trophic levels (vascular plants and sap-feeding hoppers) vary with habitat fragmentation (patch size and connectivity) in dry calcareous grasslands in southeast Norway. We found that fragmentation affected plant and hopper species composition both totally and of habitat specialists, but with a net species loss only for the specialists, indicating greater susceptibility of specialized species. Reductions in patch size and increasing isolation negatively affected plant specialists with different sets of traits, effectively reducing the number of species with trait combinations suitable to persist in small and isolated patches. Fragmentation influenced trait composition of the total hopper community, but not of habitat specialists. A lesser degree of habitat association could explain why hoppers, despite belonging to a higher tropic level, seemed to be less susceptible to fragmentation than plants. Nonetheless, our study shows that habitat fragmentation affects both species richness, species composition and trait composition of plants and hoppers, indicating that fragmentation leads not only to a loss of species, but also alters dominance hierarchies and the functionality of grassland communities.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 4, 2018
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