Do dispersal traits of wetland plant species explain tolerance against isolation effects in naturally fragmented habitats?

  • Benito Schöpke
  • Johannes Heinze
  • Marlene Pätzig
  • Thilo HeinkenEmail author


The effects of habitat fragmentation and isolation on plant species richness have been verified for a wide range of anthropogenically fragmented habitats, but there is currently little information about their effects in naturally small and isolated habitats. We tested whether habitat area, heterogeneity, and isolation affect the richness of wetland vascular plant species in kettle holes, i.e., small glacially created wetlands, in an agricultural landscape of 1 km2 in NE Germany. We compared fragmentation effects with those of forest fragments in the same landscape window. Since wetland and forest species might differ in their tolerance to isolation, and because isolation effects on plant species may be trait dependent, we asked which key life history traits might foster differences in isolation tolerance between wetland and forest plants. We recorded the flora and vegetation types in 83 isolated sites that contained 81 kettle holes and 25 forest fragments. Overall, the number of wetland species increased with increasing area and heterogeneity, i.e., the number of vegetation types, while area was not a surrogate for heterogeneity in these naturally fragmented systems. Isolation did not influence the number of wetland species but decreased the number of forest species. We also found that seeds of wetland species were on average lighter, more persistent and better adapted to epizoochory, e.g., by waterfowl, than seeds of forest species. Therefore, we suggest that wetland species are more tolerant to isolation than forest species due to their higher dispersal potential in space and time, which may counterbalance the negative effects of isolation.


Forest species Habitat fragmentation Isolation Kettle holes Life history traits Wetland species 



We thank Jaqueline Derenkó, Konstantin Etling, Ramona Heim, Robert Hering, Johannes Metz, Tonio Schaub, Maria Schoenen, Daronja Trense and Ewald Weber for valuable comments on various versions of the manuscript. We are grateful to Balázs Déak, Erwin Sieben, an anonymous reviewer and the Associate Editor Peter LeRoux, who helped to substantially improve the paper during the review process.

Supplementary material

11258_2019_955_MOESM1_ESM.docx (691 kb)
Supplementary file1 (DOCX 691 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, General BotanyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Biodiversity Research and Systematic BotanyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)BerlinGermany
  4. 4.Working Group Small Water Bodies in Agricultural LandscapesLeibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) E.VMünchebergGermany
  5. 5.Working Group Biotic Interactions between Forest and Agricultural LandLeibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) E.VMünchebergGermany

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