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Keywords:

  • conservation;
  • landscape structure;
  • reserve design;
  • scale dependence;
  • trophic interactions

Modern human-dominated landscapes are typically characterized by intensive land-use and high levels of habitat destruction, often resulting in sharply contrasted habitat mosaics. Fragmentation of remaining habitat is a major threat to biodiversity. In the present paper, we focus on the different features of habitat fragmentation. First we discuss the importance of pure habitat loss, fragment size, fragment isolation and quality, edge effects, and the importance of landscape structure. Second, we characterize life-history features of fragmentation-sensitive species, showing that rare, specialized, little dispersing species are most affected, as well as species characterized by high population variability and a high trophic position, while the effect of body size is unclear. Third, we discuss the conservation value of habitat fragments. The question arises how to relate studies on population survival to those of community structure and studies on biodiversity to those on ecologicalal functions. Despite the general superiority of large to small reserves, only small or medium-sized reserves are available in many human-dominated landscapes. A great number of small habitats covering a wide range of geographic area should maximize beta diversity and spreading of risk and may be very important for the regional conservation of biodiversity, in contrast to the prevailing arguments in favor of large habitats. Finally, landscape context influences community structure of fragments, and communities are composed of species that experience the landscape on a broad range of spatial scales. Spatial arrangement of habitat fragments in a landscape appears to be important only in simple, not complex landscapes.