Biodiversity Change in Central Europe Since 1950 - BIOCHANGE

Central Europe has seen an unprecedented loss of biodiversity in its cultural landscapes during the past 50 years. This is manifested in large decreases of population sizes and of species numbers of plants and animals in many ecosystem types accompanied by population fragmentation and genetic isolation. Ecosystem types that suffered severest losses are mesic to wet grasslands, agricultural fields, heathlands and acidic grasslands, dune slack vegetation, bogs, and oligotrophic lakes. On the other hand, certain plant and animal species have profited from changes in land use over the past 50 years, among them the about 400 neophytes and 300 neozoa in Central Europe. Numerous studies exist on landscape changes and biodiversity losses in Central Europe during the past decades. However, this information is highly biased among the different taxonomic groups. Vascular plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, odonata, lepidopterans and grasshoppers are often much better investigated than other groups. The bulk of these data has been published in “grey literature” including reports of state agencies, NGOs and local scientific journals with very limited distribution. Various state agencies for nature conservation and local scientific communities operate local databases and defined Red Lists of threatened or extinct species. So far, no comprehensive synthesis is available on quantitative biodiversity losses in Central Europe’s main ecosystem types during the past 50 years. This lack is a major obstacle in scientific research on biological conservation. For environmental policy-making, which can function only on the basis of short, concise synthetic reports, such a synthesis would be of greatest value. To reach this goal, it is planned to compile an expert-based information system for Germany, providing quantitative data on reductions in population sizes and species numbers in major ecosystem types obtained from spatially explicit sources at various scales. It will be attempted to cover as many taxonomic groups as possible, even though we are aware of the fact that quantitative data will be lacking for many groups of lower plants and animals, and for most of the fungi. GIS analyses of land cover change during the past 50 years and related reductions in ecosystem size will play an important role in estimating habitat losses of species. Species lists and quantitative abundance data from the 1950s and 1960s will be of highest interest.