Ecological Determinants of Species Loss in Remnant Prairies

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Science  13 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5281, pp. 1555-1558
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5281.1555


Recensuses of 54 Wisconsin prairie remnants showed that 8 to 60 percent of the original plant species were lost from individual remnants over a 32- to 52-year period. The pattern of species loss was consistent with the proposed effects of fire suppression caused by landscape fragmentation. Short, small-seeded, or nitrogen-fixing plants showed the heaviest losses, as did species growing in the wettest, most productive environments. The interruption of landscape-scale processes (such as wildfire) by fragmentation is an often overlooked mechanism that may be eroding biodiversity in many habitats around the world.