Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 207–251 | Cite as

Predictors of Species Sensitivity to Fragmentation

  • Klaus HenleEmail author
  • Kendi F. Davies
  • Michael Kleyer
  • Chris Margules
  • Josef Settele


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 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Klaus Henle
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kendi F. Davies
    • 2
  • Michael Kleyer
    • 3
  • Chris Margules
    • 4
  • Josef Settele
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Conservation Biology and Natural Resources, Centre for Environmental ResearchUFZ-Leipzig-HalleLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsAlice SpringsAustralia
  3. 3.Landscape Ecology Group (FB 7)University of OldenburgOldenburgGermany
  4. 4.CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and the Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre, CSIRO Tropical Forest Research CentreAthertonAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Community Ecology, Centre for Environmental ResearchUFZ-Leipzig-HalleHalleGermany

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