In this paper we argue that landscape spatial structure is of central importance in understanding the effects of fragmentation on population survival. Landscape spatial structure is the spatial relationships among habitat patches and the matrix in which they are embedded. Many general models of subdivided populations make the assumptions that (1) all habitat patches are equivalent in size and quality and (2) all local populations (in the patches) are equally accessible by dispersers. Models that gloss over spatial details of landscape structure can be useful for theoretical developments but will almost always be misleading when applied to real‐world conservation problems. We show that local extinctions of fragmented populations are common. From this it follows that recolonization of local extinctions is critical for regional survival of fragmented populations. The probability of recolonization depends on (1) spatial relationships among landscape elements used by the population, including habitat patches for breeding and elements of the inter‐patch matrix through which dispersers move, (2) dispersal characteristics of the organism of interest, and (3) temporal changes in the landscape structure. For endangered species, which are typically restricted in their dispersal range and in the kinds of habitat through which they can disperse, these factors are of primary importance and must be explicitly considered in management decisions.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1994
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