Fragments as islands: a synthesis of faunal responses to habitat patchiness

Conserv Biol. 2006 Aug;20(4):1016-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2006.00482.x.


Scientific interest in the impact of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity is increasing, but our understanding of fragmentation is clouded by a lack of appreciation for fundamental similarities and differences across studies representing a wide range of taxa and landscape types. In an effort to synthesize data describing ecological responses of animals to fragmentation across two classes of independent variables (taxonomic group and landscape), we sampled 148 studies offive major faunal groups from the primary literature and analyzed data on 13 variables extracted from those studies. We focused our analyses on three classes of dependent variables (effects of area and isolation on species richness, z values, and nestedness and species composition). Area ranged over more orders of magnitude than isolation and tended to explain more variation in species richness than isolation. There were few matrix or taxon effects on the patterns we investigated, although we did find that sky islands tended to manifest isolation effects on both species richness and nestedness more frequently than other patch types. Sky islands may offer insight into the future of habitat patches fragmented by contemporary habitat loss, and because they show a stronger effect of isolation than other patch types, we suggest that isolation will play an increasing role in the biology of habitat fragments. We use multiple lines of evidence to suggest that our understanding of the role of isolation on community assembly in fragmented landscapes is inadequate. Finally, our observation that consistent taxonomic differences in community patterns were minimal suggests that conservation actions intended to mitigate the negative effects of extinction may have far-reaching effects across taxonomic groups.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environment*
  • Geography*