Author(s): Prugh LR, Hodges KE, Sinclair AR, Brashares JS, Prugh LR, Hodges KE, Sinclair AR, Brashares JS
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Habitat destruction has driven many once-contiguous animal populations into remnant patches of varying size and isolation. The underlying framework for the conservation of fragmented populations is founded on the principles of island biogeography, wherein the probability of species occurrence in habitat patches varies as a function of patch size and isolation. Despite decades of research, the general importance of patch area and isolation as predictors of species occupancy in fragmented terrestrial systems remains unknown because of a lack of quantitative synthesis. Here, we compile occupancy data from 1,015 bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate population networks on 6 continents and show that patch area and isolation are surprisingly poor predictors of occupancy for most species. We examine factors such as improper scaling and biases in species representation as explanations and find that the type of land cover separating patches most strongly affects the sensitivity of species to patch area and isolation. Our results indicate that patch area and isolation are indeed important factors affecting the occupancy of many species, but properties of the intervening matrix should not be ignored. Improving matrix quality may lead to higher conservation returns than manipulating the size and configuration of remnant patches for many of the species that persist in the aftermath of habitat destruction.
This article was published in Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
and referenced in Journal of Biodiversity, Bioprospecting and Development