A transient, positive effect of habitat fragmentation on insect population densities
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- Grez, A., Zaviezo, T., Tischendorf, L. et al. Oecologia (2004) 141: 444. doi:10.1007/s00442-004-1670-8
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We conducted an experimental landscape study to test the hypotheses that: (1) habitat removal results in short-term increases in population density in the remaining habitat patches (the crowding effect); (2) following habitat removal, density is higher in landscapes with more, smaller patches and more habitat edge (i.e., a higher level of habitat fragmentation per se) than in less fragmented landscapes, for the same total amount of habitat on the landscapes; (3) this positive effect of fragmentation per se on density is larger in landscapes with smaller inter-patch distances; and (4) these last two effects should be reduced or disappear over time following habitat removal. Our results did not support the first hypothesis, but they provided some support for the other three hypotheses, for two of the four Coccinellid species studied. As in other empirical studies of fragmentation per se on population density, the effects of fragmentation per se were weak and positive (when they did occur). This is the first study to document a transient effect of fragmentation per se on population density, and to show that this effect depends on inter-patch distances. We suggest that fragmentation per se increased the rate of immigration to patches, resulting in higher population densities in more fragmented landscapes.