Abstract: The agricultural development of southern Australia over the past 200 years has resulted in extensively fragmented systems, often with only small, isolated remnants of native vegetation remaining. Grazing by sheep and cattle has affected both the remaining fragments and the surrounding matrix, and non‐native plant and animal species have had dramatic effects on the native biota. Invasive plant species have the potential to significantly alter ecosystem composition and functioning, and invasive animals, particularly rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculatus), foxes ( Vulpes vulpes) and cats ( Felis catus) effectively alter habitat and drive native fauna to local extinction. These different influences often interact. For instance, smaller fragments are often more prone to plant invasion and are more likely to have been grazed in the past. Invasion of plant species is often linked with livestock grazing or rabbit invasion, and other higher‐order interactions are also apparent. Classical fragmentation studies that concentrate on parameters such as habitat area and isolation but ignore changes in habitat condition brought about by livestock and invasive species are unlikely to yield meaningful results. Similarly, management of fragmented ecosystems must account for not only the spatial characteristics of the remaining habitat but also the importance of other influences, particularly those that impinge on fragments from the surrounding matrix.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Dec 14, 2001
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