Information from four archival literature sources from the late 19(th) century was matched to present-day plant species distribution data for the region of Turnhout (Belgium) and for 15 smaller sub-regions within this region. In the entire study area 25% of the species recorded in the late 19(th) century went extinct during the 20(th) century and the extinction rate doubled at the more detailed sub-region level. Binary survival-extinction data and continuous residuals from a linear regression between historical and present-day abundance categories were used to investigate underlying ecological factors of change including habitat preference, ecological amplitude and life strategy. Species increasing relative to the overall trend were generally correlated with nutrient-rich habitats while declining species were more associated with nutrient-poor situations. Generalist species have become relatively more common whilst habitat specialists have strongly declined, resulting in a flora with many 'losers' and a few tolerant 'winners'. The winners are often competitive species while the losers are mainly stress-tolerating species and species with combined life strategies (e.g. SC, SR). Correlations between the decline of historically present habitats and extinction rates of related habitat specialist species show clear trends. We suggest the most important factors involved in changes in flora diversity and vegetation composition are habitat loss due to urbanization and habitat deterioration, mainly due to agricultural intensification.