Publications by authors named "Laura R Prugh"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Using next generation sequencing of alpine plants to improve fecal metabarcoding diet analysis for Dall's sheep.

BMC Res Notes 2021 May 7;14(1):173. Epub 2021 May 7.

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

Objectives: Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) are important herbivores in the mountainous ecosystems of northwestern North America, and recent declines in some populations have sparked concern. Our aim was to improve capabilities for fecal metabarcoding diet analysis of Dall's sheep and other herbivores by contributing new sequence data for arctic and alpine plants. This expanded reference library will provide critical reference sequence data that will facilitate metabarcoding diet analysis of Dall's sheep and thus improve understanding of plant-animal interactions in a region undergoing rapid climate change.

Data Description: We provide sequences for the chloroplast rbcL gene of 16 arctic-alpine vascular plant species that are known to comprise the diet of Dall's sheep. These sequences contribute to a growing reference library that can be used in diet studies of arctic herbivores.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13104-021-05590-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8103577PMC
May 2021

Disturbance type and species life history predict mammal responses to humans.

Glob Chang Biol 2021 Apr 22. Epub 2021 Apr 22.

School of Biological Sciences, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

Human activity and land use change impact every landscape on Earth, driving declines in many animal species while benefiting others. Species ecological and life history traits may predict success in human-dominated landscapes such that only species with "winning" combinations of traits will persist in disturbed environments. However, this link between species traits and successful coexistence with humans remains obscured by the complexity of anthropogenic disturbances and variability among study systems. We compiled detection data for 24 mammal species from 61 populations across North America to quantify the effects of (1) the direct presence of people and (2) the human footprint (landscape modification) on mammal occurrence and activity levels. Thirty-three percent of mammal species exhibited a net negative response (i.e., reduced occurrence or activity) to increasing human presence and/or footprint across populations, whereas 58% of species were positively associated with increasing disturbance. However, apparent benefits of human presence and footprint tended to decrease or disappear at higher disturbance levels, indicative of thresholds in mammal species' capacity to tolerate disturbance or exploit human-dominated landscapes. Species ecological and life history traits were strong predictors of their responses to human footprint, with increasing footprint favoring smaller, less carnivorous, faster-reproducing species. The positive and negative effects of human presence were distributed more randomly with respect to species trait values, with apparent winners and losers across a range of body sizes and dietary guilds. Differential responses by some species to human presence and human footprint highlight the importance of considering these two forms of human disturbance separately when estimating anthropogenic impacts on wildlife. Our approach provides insights into the complex mechanisms through which human activities shape mammal communities globally, revealing the drivers of the loss of larger predators in human-modified landscapes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15650DOI Listing
April 2021

Habitat selection by Dall's sheep is influenced by multiple factors including direct and indirect climate effects.

PLoS One 2021 18;16(3):e0248763. Epub 2021 Mar 18.

Department of Fish and Wildlife Sciences, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, United States of America.

Arctic and boreal environments are changing rapidly, which could decouple behavioral and demographic traits of animals from the resource pulses that have shaped their evolution. Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) in northwestern regions of the USA and Canada, survive long, severe winters and reproduce during summers with short growing seasons. We sought to understand the vulnerability of Dall's sheep to a changing climate in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA. We developed ecological hypotheses about nutritional needs, security from predators, energetic costs of movement, and thermal shelter to describe habitat selection during winter, spring, and summer and evaluated habitat and climate variables that reflected these hypotheses. We used the synoptic model of animal space use to estimate parameters of habitat selection by individual females and calculated likelihoods for ecological hypotheses within seasonal models. Our results showed that seasonal habitat selection was influenced by multiple ecological requirements simultaneously. Across all seasons, sheep selected steep rugged areas near escape terrain for security from predators. During winter and spring, sheep selected habitats with increased forage and security, moderated thermal conditions, and lowered energetic costs of movement. During summer, nutritional needs and security influenced habitat selection. Climate directly influenced habitat selection during the spring lambing period when sheep selected areas with lower snow depths, less snow cover, and higher air temperatures. Indirectly, climate is linked to the expansion of shrub/scrub vegetation, which was significantly avoided in all seasons. Dall's sheep balance resource selection to meet multiple needs across seasons and such behaviors are finely tuned to patterns of phenology and climate. Direct and indirect effects of a changing climate may reduce their ability to balance their needs and lead to continued population declines. However, several management approaches could promote resiliency of alpine habitats that support Dall's sheep populations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0248763PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7971871PMC
March 2021

Seasonal influence of snow conditions on Dall's sheep productivity in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve.

PLoS One 2021 9;16(2):e0244787. Epub 2021 Feb 9.

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, United States of America.

Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) are endemic to alpine areas of sub-Arctic and Arctic northwest America and are an ungulate species of high economic and cultural importance. Populations have historically experienced large fluctuations in size, and studies have linked population declines to decreased productivity as a consequence of late-spring snow cover. However, it is not known how the seasonality of snow accumulation and characteristics such as depth and density may affect Dall's sheep productivity. We examined relationships between snow and climate conditions and summer lamb production in Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska over a 37-year study period. To produce covariates pertaining to the quality of the snowpack, a spatially-explicit snow evolution model was forced with meteorological data from a gridded climate re-analysis from 1980 to 2017 and calibrated with ground-based snow surveys and validated by snow depth data from remote cameras. The best calibrated model produced an RMSE of 0.08 m (bias 0.06 m) for snow depth compared to the remote camera data. Observed lamb-to-ewe ratios from 19 summers of survey data were regressed against seasonally aggregated modelled snow and climate properties from the preceding snow season. We found that a multiple regression model of fall snow depth and fall air temperature explained 41% of the variance in lamb-to-ewe ratios (R2 = .41, F(2,38) = 14.89, p<0.001), with decreased lamb production following deep snow conditions and colder fall temperatures. Our results suggest the early establishment and persistence of challenging snow conditions is more important than snow conditions immediately prior to and during lambing. These findings may help wildlife managers to better anticipate Dall's sheep recruitment dynamics.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0244787PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7872280PMC
February 2021

Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic.

Science 2020 11;370(6517):712-715

National Park Service, Denali National Park and Preserve, Denali Park, AK, USA.

The Arctic is entering a new ecological state, with alarming consequences for humanity. Animal-borne sensors offer a window into these changes. Although substantial animal tracking data from the Arctic and subarctic exist, most are difficult to discover and access. Here, we present the new Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA), a growing collection of more than 200 standardized terrestrial and marine animal tracking studies from 1991 to the present. The AAMA supports public data discovery, preserves fundamental baseline data for the future, and facilitates efficient, collaborative data analysis. With AAMA-based case studies, we document climatic influences on the migration phenology of eagles, geographic differences in the adaptive response of caribou reproductive phenology to climate change, and species-specific changes in terrestrial mammal movement rates in response to increasing temperature.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abb7080DOI Listing
November 2020

Enemies with benefits: integrating positive and negative interactions among terrestrial carnivores.

Ecol Lett 2020 May 17;23(5):902-918. Epub 2020 Mar 17.

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA.

Interactions among terrestrial carnivores involve a complex interplay of competition, predation and facilitation via carrion provisioning, and these negative and positive pathways may be closely linked. Here, we developed an integrative framework and synthesized data from 256 studies of intraguild predation, scavenging, kleptoparisitism and resource availability to examine global patterns of suppression and facilitation. Large carnivores were responsible for one third of mesocarnivore mortality (n = 1,581 individuals), and intraguild mortality rates were superadditive, increasing from 10.6% to 25.5% in systems with two vs. three large carnivores. Scavenged ungulates comprised 30% of mesocarnivore diets, with larger mesocarnivores relying most heavily on carrion. Large carnivores provided 1,351 kg of carrion per individual per year to scavengers, and this subsidy decreased at higher latitudes. However, reliance on carrion by mesocarnivores remained high, and abundance correlations among sympatric carnivores were more negative in these stressful, high-latitude systems. Carrion provisioning by large carnivores may therefore enhance suppression rather than benefiting mesocarnivores. These findings highlight the synergistic effects of scavenging and predation risk in structuring carnivore communities, suggesting that the ecosystem service of mesocarnivore suppression provided by large carnivores is strong and not easily replaced by humans.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ele.13489DOI Listing
May 2020

Navigating snowscapes: scale-dependent responses of mountain sheep to snowpack properties.

Ecol Appl 2018 10 3;28(7):1715-1729. Epub 2018 Aug 3.

School of Environmental and Forest Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98195-2100, USA.

Winters are limiting for many terrestrial animals due to energy deficits brought on by resource scarcity and the increased metabolic costs of thermoregulation and traveling through snow. A better understanding of how animals respond to snow conditions is needed to predict the impacts of climate change on wildlife. We compared the performance of remotely sensed and modeled snow products as predictors of winter movements at multiple spatial and temporal scales using a data set of 20,544 locations from 30 GPS-collared Dall sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska, USA from 2005 to 2008. We used daily 500-m MODIS normalized difference snow index (NDSI), and multi-resolution snow depth and density outputs from a snowpack evolution model (SnowModel), as covariates in step selection functions. We predicted that modeled snow depth would perform best across all scales of selection due to more informative spatiotemporal variation and relevance to animal movement. Our results indicated that adding any of the evaluated snow metrics substantially improved model performance and helped characterize winter Dall sheep movements. As expected, SnowModel-simulated snow depth outperformed NDSI at fine-to-moderate scales of selection (step scales < 112 h). At the finest scale, Dall sheep selected for snow depths below mean chest height (<54 cm) when in low-density snows (100 kg/m ), which may have facilitated access to ground forage and reduced energy expenditure while traveling. However, sheep selected for higher snow densities (>300 kg/m ) at snow depths above chest height, which likely further reduced energy expenditure by limiting hoof penetration in deeper snows. At moderate-to-coarse scales (112-896 h step scales), however, NDSI was the best-performing snow covariate. Thus, the use of publicly available, remotely sensed, snow cover products can substantially improve models of animal movement, particularly in cases where movement distances exceed the MODIS 500-m grid threshold. However, remote sensing products may require substantial data thinning due to cloud cover, potentially limiting its power in cases where complex models are necessary. Snowpack evolution models such as SnowModel offer users increased flexibility at the expense of added complexity, but can provide critical insights into fine-scale responses to rapidly changing snow properties.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eap.1773DOI Listing
October 2018

Fatal Attraction? Intraguild Facilitation and Suppression among Predators.

Am Nat 2017 Nov 13;190(5):663-679. Epub 2017 Sep 13.

Competition and suppression are recognized as dominant forces that structure predator communities. Facilitation via carrion provisioning, however, is a ubiquitous interaction among predators that could offset the strength of suppression. Understanding the relative importance of these positive and negative interactions is necessary to anticipate community-wide responses to apex predator declines and recoveries worldwide. Using state-sponsored wolf (Canis lupus) control in Alaska as a quasi experiment, we conducted snow track surveys of apex, meso-, and small predators to test for evidence of carnivore cascades (e.g., mesopredator release). We analyzed survey data using an integrative occupancy and structural equation modeling framework to quantify the strengths of hypothesized interaction pathways, and we evaluated fine-scale spatiotemporal responses of nonapex predators to wolf activity clusters identified from radio-collar data. Contrary to the carnivore cascade hypothesis, both meso- and small predator occupancy patterns indicated guild-wide, negative responses of nonapex predators to wolf abundance variations at the landscape scale. At the local scale, however, we observed a near guild-wide, positive response of nonapex predators to localized wolf activity. Local-scale association with apex predators due to scavenging could lead to landscape patterns of mesopredator suppression, suggesting a key link between occupancy patterns and the structure of predator communities at different spatial scales.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/693996DOI Listing
November 2017

Precipitation alters interactions in a grassland ecological community.

J Anim Ecol 2017 Mar 4;86(2):262-272. Epub 2017 Jan 4.

School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, Winkenwerder Hall, W Stevens Way NE, Seattle, WA, 98195, USA.

Climate change is transforming precipitation regimes world-wide. Changes in precipitation regimes are known to have powerful effects on plant productivity, but the consequences of these shifts for the dynamics of ecological communities are poorly understood. This knowledge gap hinders our ability to anticipate and mitigate the impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Precipitation may affect fauna through direct effects on physiology, behaviour or demography, through plant-mediated indirect effects, or by modifying interactions among species. In this paper, we examined the response of a semi-arid ecological community to a fivefold change in precipitation over 7 years. We examined the effects of precipitation on the dynamics of a grassland ecosystem in central California from 2007 to 2013. We conducted vegetation surveys, pitfall trapping of invertebrates, visual surveys of lizards and capture-mark-recapture surveys of rodents on 30 plots each year. We used structural equation modelling to evaluate the direct, indirect and modifying effects of precipitation on plants, ants, beetles, orthopterans, kangaroo rats, ground squirrels and lizards. We found pervasive effects of precipitation on the ecological community. Although precipitation increased plant biomass, direct effects on fauna were often stronger than plant-mediated effects. In addition, precipitation altered the sign or strength of consumer-resource and facilitative interactions among the faunal community such that negative or neutral interactions became positive or vice versa with increasing precipitation. These findings indicate that precipitation influences ecological communities in multiple ways beyond its recognized effects on primary productivity. Stochastic variation in precipitation may weaken the average strength of biotic interactions over time, thereby increasing ecosystem stability and resilience to climate change.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12614DOI Listing
March 2017

Implications of Harvest on the Boundaries of Protected Areas for Large Carnivore Viewing Opportunities.

PLoS One 2016 28;11(4):e0153808. Epub 2016 Apr 28.

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology, 323 Murie Building, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775, United States of America.

The desire to see free ranging large carnivores in their natural habitat is a driver of tourism in protected areas around the globe. However, large carnivores are wide-ranging and subject to human-caused mortality outside protected area boundaries. The impact of harvest (trapping or hunting) on wildlife viewing opportunities has been the subject of intense debate and speculation, but quantitative analyses have been lacking. We examined the effect of legal harvest of wolves (Canis lupus) along the boundaries of two North American National Parks, Denali (DNPP) and Yellowstone (YNP), on wolf viewing opportunities within the parks during peak tourist season. We used data on wolf sightings, pack sizes, den site locations, and harvest adjacent to DNPP from 1997-2013 and YNP from 2008-2013 to evaluate the relationship between harvest and wolf viewing opportunities. Although sightings were largely driven by wolf population size and proximity of den sites to roads, sightings in both parks were significantly reduced by harvest. Sightings in YNP increased by 45% following years with no harvest of a wolf from a pack, and sightings in DNPP were more than twice as likely during a period with a harvest buffer zone than in years without the buffer. These findings show that harvest of wolves adjacent to protected areas can reduce sightings within those areas despite minimal impacts on the size of protected wolf populations. Consumptive use of carnivores adjacent to protected areas may therefore reduce their potential for non-consumptive use, and these tradeoffs should be considered when developing regional wildlife management policies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153808PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849653PMC
February 2017

Impacts of breeder loss on social structure, reproduction and population growth in a social canid.

J Anim Ecol 2015 Jan 7;84(1):177-87. Epub 2014 Jul 7.

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Institute of Arctic Biology, 323 Murie Building, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA.

The importance of individuals to the dynamics of populations may depend on reproductive status, especially for species with complex social structure. Loss of reproductive individuals in socially complex species could disproportionately affect population dynamics by destabilizing social structure and reducing population growth. Alternatively, compensatory mechanisms such as rapid replacement of breeders may result in little disruption. The impact of breeder loss on the population dynamics of social species remains poorly understood. We evaluated the effect of breeder loss on social stability, recruitment and population growth of grey wolves (Canis lupus) in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska using a 26-year dataset of 387 radiocollared wolves. Harvest of breeding wolves is a highly contentious conservation and management issue worldwide, with unknown population-level consequences. Breeder loss preceded 77% of cases (n = 53) of pack dissolution from 1986 to 2012. Packs were more likely to dissolve if a female or both breeders were lost and pack size was small. Harvest of breeders increased the probability of pack dissolution, likely because the timing of harvest coincided with the breeding season of wolves. Rates of denning and successful recruitment were uniformly high for packs that did not experience breeder loss; however, packs that lost breeders exhibited lower denning and recruitment rates. Breeder mortality and pack dissolution had no significant effects on immediate or longer term population dynamics. Our results indicate the importance of breeding individuals is context dependent. The impact of breeder loss on social group persistence, reproduction and population growth may be greatest when average group sizes are small and mortality occurs during the breeding season. This study highlights the importance of reproductive individuals in maintaining group cohesion in social species, but at the population level socially complex species may be resilient to disruption and harvest through strong compensatory mechanisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12256DOI Listing
January 2015

Does moonlight increase predation risk? Meta-analysis reveals divergent responses of nocturnal mammals to lunar cycles.

J Anim Ecol 2014 Mar 21;83(2):504-14. Epub 2013 Oct 21.

Dept of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Landmark Center West, Rm 405, Box 15677, 401 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215, USA.

The risk of predation strongly affects mammalian population dynamics and community interactions. Bright moonlight is widely believed to increase predation risk for nocturnal mammals by increasing the ability of predators to detect prey, but the potential for moonlight to increase detection of predators and the foraging efficiency of prey has largely been ignored. Studies have reported highly variable responses to moonlight among species, calling into question the assumption that moonlight increases risk. Here, we conducted a quantitative meta-analysis examining the effects of moonlight on the activity of 59 nocturnal mammal species to test the assumption that moonlight increases predation risk. We examined patterns of lunarphilia and lunarphobia across species in relation to factors such as trophic level, habitat cover preference and visual acuity. Across all species included in the meta-analysis, moonlight suppressed activity. The magnitude of suppression was similar to the presence of a predator in experimental studies of foraging rodents (13.6% and 18.7% suppression, respectively). Contrary to the expectation that moonlight increases predation risk for all prey species, however, moonlight effects were not clearly related to trophic level and were better explained by phylogenetic relatedness, visual acuity and habitat cover. Moonlight increased the activity of prey species that use vision as their primary sensory system and suppressed the activity of species that primarily use other senses (e.g. olfaction, echolocation), and suppression was strongest in open habitat types. Strong taxonomic patterns underlay these relationships: moonlight tended to increase primate activity, whereas it tended to suppress the activity of rodents, lagomorphs, bats and carnivores. These results indicate that visual acuity and habitat cover jointly moderate the effect of moonlight on predation risk, whereas trophic position has little effect. While the net effect of moonlight appears to increase predation risk for most nocturnal mammals, our results highlight the importance of sensory systems and phylogenetic history in determining the level of risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12148DOI Listing
March 2014

Partitioning the effects of an ecosystem engineer: kangaroo rats control community structure via multiple pathways.

J Anim Ecol 2012 May 18;81(3):667-78. Epub 2011 Nov 18.

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

1. Ecosystem engineers impact communities by altering habitat conditions, but they can also have strong effects through consumptive, competitive and other non-engineering pathways. 2. Engineering effects can lead to fundamentally different community dynamics than non-engineering effects, but the relative strengths of these interactions are seldom quantified. 3. We combined structural equation modelling and exclosure experiments to partition the effects of a keystone engineer, the giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens), on plants, invertebrates and vertebrates in a semi-arid California grassland. 4. We separated the effects of burrow creation from kangaroo rat density and found that kangaroo rats increased the diversity and abundance of other species via both engineering and non-engineering pathways. 5. Engineering was the primary factor structuring plant and small mammal communities, whereas non-engineering effects structured invertebrate communities and increased lizard abundance. 6. These results highlight the importance of the non-engineering effects of ecosystem engineers and shed new light on the multiple pathways by which strong-interactors shape communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01930.xDOI Listing
May 2012

An evaluation of patch connectivity measures.

Authors:
Laura R Prugh

Ecol Appl 2009 Jul;19(5):1300-10

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, 137 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.

Measuring connectivity is critical to the study of fragmented populations. The three most commonly used types of patch connectivity measures differ substantially in how they are calculated, but the performance of these measures has not been broadly assessed. Here I compare the ability of nearest neighbor (NN), buffer, and incidence function model (IFM) measures to predict the patch occupancy and colonization patterns of 24 invertebrate, reptile, and amphibian metapopulations. I predicted that NN measures, which have been criticized as being overly simplistic, would be the worst predictors of species occupancy and colonization. I also predicted that buffer measures, which sum the amount of habitat in a radius surrounding the focal patch, would have intermediate performance, and IFM measures, which take into account the areas and distances to all potential source patches, would perform best. As expected, the simplest NN measure (distance to the nearest habitat patch, NHi) was the poorest predictor of patch occupancy and colonization. Contrary to expectations, however, the next-simplest NN measure (distance to the nearest occupied [source] patch, NSi) was as good a predictor of occupancy and colonization as the best-performing buffer measure and the general IFM measure Si. In contrast to previous studies suggesting that area-based connectivity measures perform better than distance-based ones, my results indicate that the exclusion of vacant habitat patches from calculations is the key to improved measure performance. I highlight several problems with the parameterization and use of IFM measures and suggest that models based on NSi are equally powerful and more practical for many conservation applications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/08-1524.1DOI Listing
July 2009

Effect of habitat area and isolation on fragmented animal populations.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2008 Dec 10;105(52):20770-5. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, 137 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

Habitat destruction has driven many once-contiguous animal populations into remnant patches of varying size and isolation. The underlying framework for the conservation of fragmented populations is founded on the principles of island biogeography, wherein the probability of species occurrence in habitat patches varies as a function of patch size and isolation. Despite decades of research, the general importance of patch area and isolation as predictors of species occupancy in fragmented terrestrial systems remains unknown because of a lack of quantitative synthesis. Here, we compile occupancy data from 1,015 bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, and invertebrate population networks on 6 continents and show that patch area and isolation are surprisingly poor predictors of occupancy for most species. We examine factors such as improper scaling and biases in species representation as explanations and find that the type of land cover separating patches most strongly affects the sensitivity of species to patch area and isolation. Our results indicate that patch area and isolation are indeed important factors affecting the occupancy of many species, but properties of the intervening matrix should not be ignored. Improving matrix quality may lead to higher conservation returns than manipulating the size and configuration of remnant patches for many of the species that persist in the aftermath of habitat destruction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0806080105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2634894PMC
December 2008