Is habitat fragmentation good for biodiversity?

Fletcher, Robert J. and Didham, Raphael K. and Banks-Leite, Cristina and Barlow, Jos and Ewers, Robert M. and Rosindell, James and Holt, Robert D. and Gonzalez, Andrew and Pardini, Renata and Damschen, Ellen I. and Melo, Felipe P.L. and Ries, Leslie and Prevedello, Jayme A. and Tscharntke, Teja and Laurance, William F. and Lovejoy, Thomas and Haddad, Nick M. (2018) Is habitat fragmentation good for biodiversity? Biological Conservation, 226. pp. 9-15. ISSN 0006-3207

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Habitat loss is a primary threat to biodiversity across the planet, yet contentious debate has ensued on the importance of habitat fragmentation ‘per se’ (i.e., altered spatial configuration of habitat for a given amount of habitat loss). Based on a review of landscape-scale investigations, Fahrig (2017; Ecological responses to habitat fragmentation per se. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 48:1-23) reports that biodiversity responses to habitat fragmentation ‘per se’ are more often positive rather than negative and concludes that the widespread belief in negative fragmentation effects is a ‘zombie idea’. We show that Fahrig's conclusions are drawn from a narrow and potentially biased subset of available evidence, which ignore much of the observational, experimental and theoretical evidence for negative effects of altered habitat configuration. We therefore argue that Fahrig's conclusions should be interpreted cautiously as they could be misconstrued by policy makers and managers, and we provide six arguments why they should not be applied in conservation decision-making. Reconciling the scientific disagreement, and informing conservation more effectively, will require research that goes beyond statistical and correlative approaches. This includes a more prudent use of data and conceptual models that appropriately partition direct vs indirect influences of habitat loss and altered spatial configuration, and more clearly discriminate the mechanisms underpinning any changes. Incorporating these issues will deliver greater mechanistic understanding and more predictive power to address the conservation issues arising from habitat loss and fragmentation.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Biological Conservation
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Biological Conservation. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Biological Conservation, 226, 2018 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.07.022
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? habitat amounthabitat lossconfigurationbiodiversityecology, evolution, behavior and systematicsnature and landscape conservation ??
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Deposited On:
23 Aug 2018 08:30
Last Modified:
22 Feb 2024 00:55