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Adverse Impacts of Landscape Fragmentation on Biodiversity

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Adverse Impacts of Landscape Fragmentation on Biodiversity

Landscape fragmentation can impose devastating and irreversible consequences on the biodiversity of ecosystems. Because of the conflicting interests between ecology and human economic benefit, it has become increasingly important to find solutions for a harmonic balance. It is imperative for people to recognize the impacts of biodiversity loss and increased extinction of many species. These impacts must be understood in order to protect landscapes and the immense biodiversity they contain. Raising environmental consciousness through education and public cooperative efforts, as well as promoting resource conservation and changing consumptive patterns, are just a few ways that we can begin to protect biodiversity.

What is landscape fragmentation?

Landscape fragmentation can be characterized as a break up of a continuous landscape into more smaller, less-connected patches by roads, clearing for agriculture, commercial and residential development, and timber harvesting. Clear-cutting can break up mature, contiguous forest until the clear-cut area has regenerated to a point that it does not act as an ecological barrier to interior species or species that rely on continuous, mature forests. Much of the work that has sought to measure landscape pattern and habitat fragmentation comes out of the disciplines of conservation biology and landscape ecology (Theobald 1998). These disciplines are founded on the premise that landscape patterns strongly influence and are influenced by ecological processes (Forman and Godron 1986).

How does landscape fragmentation affect species diversity?

Landscape fragmentation contributes to loss of migratory corridors, loss of connectivity and natural communities, which all lead to a loss of biodiversity for a region. Conservation of biodiversity must include all levels of diversity: genetic, species, community, and landscape (CNHP 1995). Each complex level is dependent upon and linked to the other levels. In addition, humans are linked to all levels of this hierarchy. A healthy natural and human environment go hand in hand (CNHP 1995). An important step in conservation planning, in order to guarantee both a healthy natural environment as well as a healthy human environment, is recognizing the most endangered elements.

Biodiversity is influenced by landscape fragmentation at various scales of space and time. The extinction of ecosystem types and component species may cause an increased patchiness of the landscape, resulting in lower population sizes and decreased connectivity. As a result, inhabitants may experience decreased dispersal abilities and lowered gene flows between populations.
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