Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 207-251

First online:

Predictors of Species Sensitivity to Fragmentation

  • Klaus HenleAffiliated withDepartment of Conservation Biology and Natural Resources, Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ-Leipzig-Halle Email author 
  • , Kendi F. DaviesAffiliated withCSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
  • , Michael KleyerAffiliated withLandscape Ecology Group (FB 7), University of Oldenburg
  • , Chris MargulesAffiliated withCSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre, CSIRO Tropical Forest Research Centre
  • , Josef SetteleAffiliated withDepartment of Community Ecology, Centre for Environmental Research, UFZ-Leipzig-Halle

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We reviewed empirical data and hypotheses derived from demographic, optimal foraging, life-history, community, and biogeographic theory for predicting the sensitivity of species to habitat fragmentation. We found 12 traits or trait groups that have been suggested as predictors of species sensitivity: population size; population fluctuation and storage effect; dispersal power; reproductive potential; annual survival; sociality; body size; trophic position; ecological specialisation, microhabitat and matrix use; disturbance and competition sensitive traits; rarity; and biogeographic position. For each trait we discuss the theoretical justification for its sensitivity to fragmentation and empirical evidence for and against the suitability of the trait as a predictor of fragmentation sensitivity. Where relevant, we also discuss experimental design problems for testing the underlying hypotheses. There is good empirical support for 6 of the 12 traits as sensitivity predictors: population size; population fluctuation and storage effects; traits associated with competitive ability and disturbance sensitivity in plants; microhabitat specialisation and matrix use; rarity in the form of low abundance within a habitat; and relative biogeographic position. Few clear patterns emerge for the remaining traits from empirical studies if examined in isolation. Consequently, interactions of species traits and environmental conditions must be considered if we want to be able to predict species sensitivity to fragmentation. We develop a classification of fragmentation sensitivity based on specific trait combinations and discuss the implications of the results for ecological theory.

Biogeographic traits Demographic traits Ecological traits Empirical evidence Extinction proneness Habitat fragmentation Sensitivity indicators Testing Theory