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We review the ecological effects of habitat fragmentation, comparing the theoretical approaches that have been taken to understanding it with the existing evidence from empirical studies. Theory has emphasized the spatial aspects of fragmentation and the role of dispersal among patches, and has generated interesting predictions such as a nonlinear relationship between the amount of remaining habitat and the probability of species persistence. However, while the few available large-scale empirical studies of fragmentation all tend to show that it has major effects, these documented effects tend to be relatively simple ones such as the degradation of habitat quality within fragments. There is good reason to be cautious of any claim that corridors or the spatial configuration of remaining habitat can compensate for the overall loss of habitat.

This is an invited Minireview on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Nordic Ecological Society Oikos.