Intraspecific variation in sensitivity to habitat fragmentation is influenced by forest cover and distance to the range edge

Flavia Bellotto-Trigo*, Alexandre Uezu, Jack Henry Hatfield, José Carlos Morante-Filho, Luiz dos Anjos, Pedro F Develey, Thomas Clegg, C David L Orme, Cristina Banks-Leite

*Corresponding author for this work

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The relative effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on biodiversity have been a topic of discussion for decades. While it is acknowledged that habitat amount can mediate the effects of habitat fragmentation, it is unclear what other factors may drive inter- and intraspecific variation in fragmentation effects and their implications for conservation. We tested whether the effects of forest fragmentation on 362 bird species' occurrence in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil are mediated by distance to geographic range edge and habitat amount, and whether these effects explain intraspecific variation across populations. Using a single binomial linear mixed effects model, we found that fragmentation had mostly negative effects on occurrence probability up to 1080 km from the species' range edge, independent of habitat amount. We also show that above this distance, fragmentation has predominantly positive effects, more accentuated in deforested landscapes. We demonstrate that fragmentation effects can be both positive and negative, indicating that different populations of the same species can respond differently depending on distance to range edge and local forest cover. Our results help clarify one of the drivers of contradictory results found in the fragmentation literature and highlight the importance of preventing habitat fragmentation for the conservation of endangered populations. Conservation initiatives should focus on minimising fragmentation closer to range edges of target species and in regions where species range edges overlap.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110167
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date20 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

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