Steppe-like grassland as a refuge of the wild edible and medicinal plant species in anthropogenic landscape in northeastern Croatia

Habitat fragmentation and modification have been recognized as the most serious threats to biodiversity. In Croatia, the intensive human activities resulted in the landscape transformation, reduction of grassland areas and loss of species number. Increasingly threatened are the wild edible and medicinal plants which contribute remarkably to the biodiversity of different grassland types. In northeastern Croatia, one of the last remnants of the steppe-like grassland remained preserved in a very complex anthropogenic landscape. We examined the diversity of vascular plants occurring on this small habitat patch. Among the relatively high number of plant taxa (in a total of 177) found during the two years of investigations, most could be used both for human nutrition (28 taxa), and for the treatment of a wide range of diseases (60 taxa), while some taxa have nutritional value for livestock (17 taxa). All 23 recorded taxa with edible and medicinal properties are threatened in Croatia, 21 are threatened across Europe, and two are Red Listed taxa. Our results showed that small and isolated steppe-like grassland represents an important refuge for variety of valuable plant species in intensively used landscapes. Accordingly, such small habitats should be, at least locally, effectively protected.