change is considered a major threat to biodiversity. Species–area
relationships (SARs), which are often used to assess biodiversity
changes, assume that land use leads to the loss of natural habitats.
Yet, in regions with long land-use histories, such as Europe, many
species have persisted in, or even depend on, landscapes heavily
influenced by land use (i.e., countryside landscapes). Here, we develop a
SAR model that considers the conservation value of such landscapes, and
we assess how land use affects plant-species richness at broad spatial
Countries in the European Union (EU-27).
first predicted species richness at a 50 × 50 km resolution using a
biome-specific SAR and used these predictions as a baseline estimate for
(semi-)natural vegetation. Then, we parameterized a countryside SAR
(sensu Pereira & Daily, 2006) with habitat affinities derived from a
meta-analysis. We estimated changes in species richness as the
difference in predictions between the two SAR models.
a 50 × 50 km resolution, predicted species richness has increased by up
to 184 species due to land use in 73% of all cells across Europe
compared to the (semi-)natural baseline. However, our model also
highlights regions with dramatic species losses (in 25% of cells, losses
of up to 900 species) due to an unfavourable combination of land-use
changes. Averaged across all cells, we predict a loss of 26 plant
species (SD = 119, median = 49).
the countryside SAR model to broader spatial scales overcomes the
unrealistic assumptions of previous approaches about generally negative
effects of land use. Our approach predicts how local-scale land-use
effects translate to biodiversity changes at broader geographic scales.
Thus, it allows land-use scenarios being studied in relation to their
trade-offs with biodiversity and can be used to target conservation
efforts across large areas.