Directly observed biodiversity data have a limited temporal span of c. 100–150 years. Consequently, for a region such as temperate Western Europe, our knowledge of species distributions is restricted to a period impacted by the process of massive industrialisation. There is a danger of shifted baselines in terms of conservation policy and targets. Here we present a novel source of high resolution archaeobotanical information for lichen epiphyte bioindicators; these data can reconstruct species distributions for the pre-industrial European landscape. We compare these historic records to a species’ post-industrial distribution and environmental response, quantifying the spatial trend and causes of biodiversity loss. The results indicate regional extinction rates of c. 76% in response to habitat loss and industrial pollution. We propose pre-industrial baselines that would better represent biodiversity restoration for temperate regions (net gain), and which would be equitable with advocacy for species and habitat protection in the present-day tropics (no net loss).
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 31, 2018
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