The role of habitat quality in fragmented landscapes: a conceptual overview and prospectus for future research
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- Mortelliti, A., Amori, G. & Boitani, L. Oecologia (2010) 163: 535. doi:10.1007/s00442-010-1623-3
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There is increasing empirical evidence that the quality of habitat patches (determined by either habitat degradation or natural heterogeneity in the quality of habitat) plays an important role in determining species distribution patterns and in regulating spatial dynamics in fragmented landscapes. However, to date, most of the debate has focused on whether or not to include habitat variables in fragmentation studies, and we still lack general conclusions as well as standard and robust research approaches. In this paper we show how a weak conceptualization of “patch quality” and the inappropriate choice of target surrogate variables (e.g., density is often used as an indicator of patch quality) have mainly produced case-specific results, rather than general conclusions. We then identify weaknesses in the inclusion of habitat quality measurements within fragmentation studies. In particular, we focus on: (1) the lack of appropriate experimental design, outlining how few studies have actually included a gradient of habitat quality in their sample; (2) the lack of fundamental information provided (e.g., lack of standard outputs), which in turn hampers the possibility of carrying out meta-analyses. We finally synthesize available knowledge from empirical studies and highlight the different conceptual frameworks needed for patch occupancy versus patch use studies.