1932

Abstract

For this article, I reviewed empirical studies finding significant ecological responses to habitat fragmentation per se—in other words, significant responses to fragmentation independent of the effects of habitat amount (hereafter referred to as habitat fragmentation). I asked these two questions: Are most significant responses to habitat fragmentation negative or positive? And do particular attributes of species or landscapes lead to a predominance of negative or positive significant responses? I found 118 studies reporting 381 significant responses to habitat fragmentation independent of habitat amount Of these responses, 76% were positive. Most significant fragmentation effects were positive, irrespective of how the authors controlled for habitat amount, the measure of fragmentation, the taxonomic group, the type of response variable, or the degree of specialization or conservation status of the species or species group. No support was found for predictions that most significant responses to fragmentation should be negative in the tropics, for species with larger movement ranges, or when habitat amount is low; most significant fragmentation effects were positive in all of these cases. Thus, although 24% of significant responses to habitat fragmentation were negative, I found no conditions in which most responses were negative. Authors suggest a wide range of possible explanations for significant positive responses to habitat fragmentation: increased functional connectivity, habitat diversity, positive edge effects, stability of predator–prey/host–parasitoid systems, reduced competition, spreading of risk, and landscape complementation. A consistent preponderance of positive significant responses to fragmentation implies that there is no justification for assigning lower conservation value to a small patch than to an equivalent area within a large patch—instead, it implies just the opposite. This finding also suggests that land sharing will usually provide higher ecological value than land sparing.

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2017-11-02
2024-04-16
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