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Testing the habitat amount hypothesis and fragmentation effects for medium- and large-sized mammals in a biodiversity hotspot

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Habitat loss is widely recognized as the main driver of biodiversity loss around the globe, yet the effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity have been extensively debated in recent years.

We used a robust dataset of medium and large-sized mammals to test (a) the Habitat Amount Hypothesis, which postulates that species richness can be mainly predicted by the total amount of habitat surrounding the sampling site, and (b) the effects of habitat fragmentation per se, which may be expected to be weak or mainly positive on species richness.

We compiled information on the occurrence of mammal species in 166 forest fragments across the Atlantic Forest. For each forest fragment, we extracted information on patch size, percentage of forest cover (a proxy for habitat amount), and edge density and number of fragments (fragmentation metrics). We related these metrics to mammalian richness considering separately for all species, forest-dependent species, disturbance-tolerant species, and different trophic guilds.

All richness measures strongly declined with decreasing forest cover, yet were unaffected by patch size, number of patches and edge density. The only exception occurred with herbivore richness, which was affected by number of patches. However, we found fragmentation per se effects only for herbivore richness.

Our results show that mammal richness increased with habitat amount at the landscape, whereas habitat fragmentation per se had significant negative impacts on herbivores only. We therefore recommend maintaining highly forested landscapes and restoring severely deforested areas, being essential for ensuring high richness of mammals.
Journal: Landscape Ecology
ISSN: 0921-2973
Publication year:2021