Calcareous grasslands harbour a high biodiversity, but are highly fragmented and endangered in central Europe. We tested the relative importance of habitat area, habitat isolation, and landscape diversity for species richness of vascular plants. Plants were recorded on 31 calcareous grasslands in the vicinity of the city of Göttingen (Germany) and were divided into habitat specialist and generalist species. We expected that habitat specialists were more affected by area and isolation, and habitat generalists more by landscape diversity. In multiple regression analysis, the species richness of habitat specialists (n = 66 species) and habitat generalists (n = 242) increased with habitat area, while habitat isolation or landscape diversity did not have significant effects. Contrary to predictions, habitat specialists were not more affected by reduced habitat area than generalists. This may have been caused by delayed extinction of long-living plant specialists in small grasslands. Additionally, non-specialists may profit more from high habitat heterogeneity in large grasslands compared to habitat specialists. Although habitat isolation and landscape diversity revealed no significant effect on local plant diversity, only an average of 54% of habitat specialists of the total species pool were found within one study site. In conclusion, habitat area was important for plant species conservation, but regional variation between habitats contributed also an important 46% of total species richness.
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