, Volume 26, Issue 7, pp 1035-1048
Date: 07 Jul 2011

Habitat area trumps fragmentation effects on arthropods in an experimental landscape system

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Abstract

The effects of habitat area and fragmentation are confounded in many studies. Since a reduction in habitat area alone reduces patch size and increases patch isolation, many studies reporting fragmentation effects may really be documenting habitat-area effects. We designed an experimental landscape system in the field, founded on fractal neutral landscape models, to study arthropod community responses to clover habitat in which we adjusted the level of fragmentation independently of habitat area. Overall, habitat area had a greater and more consistent effect on morphospecies richness than fragmentation. Morphospecies richness doubled between 10 and 80% habitat, with the greatest increase occurring up to 40% habitat. Fragmentation had a more subtle and transient effect, exhibiting an interaction at intermediate levels of habitat only at the start of the study or in the early-season (June) survey. In these early surveys, morphospecies richness was higher in clumped 40–50% landscapes but higher in fragmented landscapes at 60–80% habitat. Rare or uncommon species are expected to be most sensitive to fragmentation effects, and we found a significant interaction with fragmentation at intermediate levels of habitat for these types of morphospecies in early surveys. Although the effects of fragmentation are expected to amplify at higher trophic levels, all trophic levels exhibited a significant fragmentation effect at intermediate levels of habitat in these early surveys. Predators/parasitoids were more sensitive to habitat area than herbivores, however. Thus, our results confirm that habitat area is more important than fragmentation for predicting arthropod community responses, at least in this agricultural system.