Parallel declines in species and genetic diversity in tropical forest fragments




Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 582–590


The potential for parallel impacts of habitat change on multiple biodiversity levels has important conservation implications. We report on the first empirical test of the ‘species–genetic diversity correlation’ across co-distributed taxa with contrasting ecological traits in the context of habitat fragmentation. In a rainforest landscape undergoing conversion to oil palm, we show that depauperate species richness in fragments is mirrored by concomitant declines in population genetic diversity in the taxon predicted to be most susceptible to fragmentation. This association, not seen in the other species, relates to fragment area rather than isolation. While highlighting the over-simplification of extrapolating across taxa, we show that fragmentation presents a double jeopardy for some species. For these, conserving genetic diversity at levels of pristine forest could require sites 15-fold larger than those needed to safeguard species numbers. Importantly, however, each fragment contributes to regional species richness, with larger ones tending to contain more species.