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Experimental design and taxonomic scope of fragmentation studies on European mammals: current status and future priorities

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ABSTRACT

  • 1Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation are the greatest threats to mammals in Europe and the rest of the world. Despite the fact that extensive literature exists, no comprehensive review or synthesis is available to date and this may slow down scientific progress and hamper conservation efforts.
  • 2The goal of this study is to understand if and in what direction progress has been made in the study of the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on the spatial distribution of European terrestrial mammals. Firstly, we carry out a general synthesis which is structured around 11 key points. The aim of this point-by-point analysis is to identify trends, knowledge gaps and any significant bias in the available literature, and to highlight strengths and shortfalls of the different approaches which have to date been applied. Secondly, we follow a species-specific systematic approach: for each species, we synthesise key results.
  • 3Our results show how substantial progress has been hampered for several reasons including: a large predominance of small-scale field studies of short duration, and a generalised lack of control of: (i) confounding variables; (ii) spatial autocorrelation; and (iii) false absences. Also, despite the relatively high number of studies, few were theoretical studies and even fewer were meta-analyses. The lack of meta-analyses is likely to be due to the small amount of crucial details included in the publications, such as model parameters or information on the landscape context (such as the amount of residual forest cover).
  • 4We synthesise the main results for 14 species. The level of progress is highly variable: for some species, such as the red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, a series of long-term, large-scale process-oriented studies has allowed an in-depth understanding of its ecology in fragmented landscapes. On the other hand, with other species such as the bank vole Myodes glareolus, despite a relatively large number of field studies, little progress has been made.
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