Habitat fragmentation and landscape change
Conceptual approaches used to understand conservation in fragmented landscapes are summarized in this chapter by Andrew F. Bennett and Denis A. Saunders. Destruction and fragmentation of habitats are major factors in the global decline of species, the modification of native plant and animal communities and the alteration of ecosystem processes. Habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation (or subdivision) and new forms of land use are closely intertwined in an overall process of landscape change. Landscape change is not random: disproportionate change typically occurs in flatter areas, at lower elevations and on more‐productive soils. Altered physical processes (e.g. wind and water flows) and the impacts of human land‐use have a profound influence on fragments and their biota, particularly at fragment edges. Different species have different ecological attributes (such as scale of movement, life‐history stages, what constitutes habitat) which influence how a species perceives a landscape and its ability to survive in modified landscapes. Differences in the vulnerability of species to landscape change alter the structure of communities and modify interactions between species (e.g. pollination, parasitism). Changes within fragments, and between fragments and their surroundings, involve time‐lags before the full consequences of landscape change are experienced. Conservation in fragmented landscapes can be enhanced by: (i) protecting and increasing the amount of habitat: (ii) improving habitat quality; (iii) increasing connectivity; (iv) managing disturbance processes in the wider landscape; (v) planning for the long term; and (vi) learning from conservation actions undertaken.
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