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Life-history traits predict species responses to habitat area and isolation: a cross-continental synthesis


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Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 969–979


There is a lack of quantitative syntheses of fragmentation effects across species and biogeographic regions, especially with respect to species life-history traits. We used data from 24 independent studies of butterflies and moths from a wide range of habitats and landscapes in Europe and North America to test whether traits associated with dispersal capacity, niche breadth and reproductive rate modify the effect of habitat fragmentation on species richness. Overall, species richness increased with habitat patch area and connectivity. Life-history traits improved the explanatory power of the statistical models considerably and modified the butterfly species–area relationship. Species with low mobility, a narrow feeding niche and low reproduction were most strongly affected by habitat loss. This demonstrates the importance of considering life-history traits in fragmentation studies and implies that both species richness and composition change in a predictable manner with habitat loss and fragmentation.