• Animals;
  • biodiversity;
  • connectivity;
  • isolation;
  • matrix;
  • patch


Aim  Connectivity is a key determinant of the distribution and abundance of organisms and is greatly influenced by anthropogenic landscape modification, yet we lack a synthetic perspective on the magnitude and extent of matrix effects on connectivity. We synthesize results from published studies to understand the importance of matrix effects on fragmented animal populations.

Location  Global.

Methods  We conduct a meta-analysis of 283 fragmented populations representing 184 terrestrial animal taxa to determine the strength of matrix composition effects on the occurrence and abundance of animals in fragmented habitat.

Results  Studies that use data on matrix composition report greater effects on abundance and occupancy of fragmented populations than studies that define connectivity without regard to the surrounding matrix (i.e. ‘binary’ studies that describe only characteristics of patch habitat).

Main conclusions  Our findings underscore that conservation strategies must consider the importance of matrix habitat, have important implications for metapopulation and metacommunity paradigms, and provide direct large-scale, multi-taxa evidence that matrix habitat is an important driver of ecological dynamics in heterogeneous landscapes.