Habitat fragmentation, species diversity, extinction, and design of nature reserves

  • George R. Robinson
  • James F. Quinn
Part of the Monographiae Biologicae book series (MOBI, volume 67)


We review theories commonly offered to predict the consequences of habitat fragmentation for community- and population-level diversity, and their potential use in conservation strategies. Exploring community-level effects of habitat subdivision, we demonstrate why island biogeography theory is not applicable to the problem of determining the best reserve size for maximum diversity. Evidence from field studies and experiments tends to argue for higher levels of diversity with some moderate degree of habitat subdivision, provided that the amount of total habitat area, whether intact or subdivided, is the same. We examine the relationship between population subdivision and extinction. In theory, large populations are resistant to extinction due to demographic or genetic stochasticity, whereas population subdivision permits escape from chance environmental threats. It follows that a conservation advantage might be gained from preserving multiple populations, depending on the relative importance of different extinction mechanisms in nature. Empirical evidence for this is mixed, varying among different organisms in different habitats. We conclude that strategies emphasizing reserve size to the exclusion of other concerns are not well supported.


Nature Reserve Habitat Fragmentation Small Island Extinction Rate Large Island 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • George R. Robinson
    • 1
  • James F. Quinn
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental StudiesUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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