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Climate warming and land-use changes drive broad-scale floristic changes in Southern Sweden

  • Torbjörn Tyler
  • Lina Herbertsson
  • Pål Axel Olsson
  • Lars Fröberg
  • Kjell-Arne Olsson
  • Åke Svensson
  • Ola Olsson
Publishing year: 2018-06
Language: English
Pages: 2607-2621
Publication/Series: Global Change Biology
Volume: 24
Issue: 6
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

Land-use changes, pollution and climate warming during the 20th century have
caused changes in biodiversity across the world. However, in many cases, the environmental drivers are poorly understood. To identify and rank the drivers currently
causing broad-scale floristic changes in N Europe, we analysed data from two vascular
plant surveys of 200 randomly selected 2.5 9 2.5 km grid-squares in Scania,
southernmost Sweden, conducted 1989–2006 and 2008–2015, respectively, and
related the change in frequency (performance) of the species to a wide range of
species-specific plant traits. We chose traits representing all plausible drivers of
recent floristic changes: climatic change (northern distribution limit, flowering time),
land-use change (light requirement, response to grazing/mowing, response to soil
disturbance), drainage (water requirement), acidification (pH optimum), nitrogen
deposition and eutrophication (N requirement, N fixation ability, carnivory, parasitism,
mycorrhizal associations), pollinator decline (mode of reproduction) and
changes in CO2 levels (photosynthetic pathway). Our results suggest that climate
warming and changes in land-use were the main drivers of changes in the flora during
the last decades. Climate warming appeared as the most influential driver, with
northern distribution limit explaining 30%–60% of the variance in the GLMM models.
However, the relative importance of the drivers differed among habitat types,
with grassland species being affected the most by cessation of grazing/mowing and
species of ruderal habitats by on-going concentration of both agriculture and human
population to the most productive soils. For wetland species, only pH optimum was
significantly related to species performance, possibly an effect of the increasing
humification of acidic water bodies. An observed relative decline of mycorrhizal species may possibly be explained by decreasing nitrogen deposition resulting in less
competition for phosphorus. We found no effect of shortage or decline of pollinating
lepidopterans and bees.


  • Botany
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • bee decline, citizen science, grazing, humification, mycorrhiza, nitrogen deposition, phenology, plant traits


  • ISSN: 1354-1013
Pål Axel Olsson
E-mail: pal_axel [dot] olsson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 42 47



Research group

Plant Biology



Doctoral students and postdocs

PhD students, main supervisor

Theodor Kindeberg

PhD students, assistant supervisor