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Keywords:

  • genetic diversity;
  • population genetics;
  • rarefaction method;
  • sampling strategy;
  • small sample size

Abstract

Predicted parallel impacts of habitat fragmentation on genes and species lie at the core of conservation biology, yet tests of this rule are rare. In a recent article in Ecology Letters, Struebig et al. (2011) report that declining genetic diversity accompanies declining species diversity in tropical forest fragments. However, this study estimates diversity in many populations through extrapolation from very small sample sizes. Using the data of this recent work, we show that results estimated from the smallest sample sizes drive the species–genetic diversity correlation (SGDC), owing to a false-positive association between habitat fragmentation and loss of genetic diversity. Small sample sizes are a persistent problem in habitat fragmentation studies, the results of which often do not fit simple theoretical models. It is essential, therefore, that data assessing the proposed SGDC are sufficient in order that conclusions be robust.