Landscape Ecology

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 381-389

First online:

A controlled, hierarchical study of habitat fragmentation: responses at the individual, patch, and landscape scale

  • Michael A. BowersAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences & Blandy Experimental Farm, University of Virginia
  • , James L. DooleyJr.Affiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences & Blandy Experimental Farm, University of Virginia

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We compared the performance of individuals and whole populations of meadow voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus, within and between experimentally created habitat fragments of three sizes (1.0, 0.25, and 0.0625 ha) and between a 20-ha fragmented and a 20-ha continuous habitat landscape. We recorded 10,020 captures of 3946 individuals over 17 censuses between June 1993 and October 1994. Five demographic parameters showed significantly different population responses between the two landscapes but no difference in tests comparing fragment size: i.e., mean and peak population densities (the latter, in each of the two growing seasons) averaged 149 to 172% higher, population growth rate averaged 219% higher, and adult recruitment 170% higher in fragmented than in the continuous control landscape. Observations at the individual level (body sizes, rates of reproduction, residence times) suggested that these landscape differences involved enhanced performance of adult females associated with edge habitats rather than differential immigration or emigration. If this turns out to be a common response to fragmentation, the detection of such responses will be greater when comparing fragmented and unfragmented landscapes with qualitatively different structure than for fragments of varied size with differing proportions of edge. That responses to habitat fragmentation may be more evident at the very small (individual) and very large (landscape) scales, but may be obscured at the intermediate spatial scale of fragments, is a proposition that clearly requires more attention.

ecological model system ecological scaling edge habitat experimentation fragment habitat fragmentation landscape Microtus