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Habitat Fragmentation and Habitat Alterations: Principal Threats to Most Animal and Plant Species

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Many human activities, such as deforestation, urbanization, intensive agriculture, the building of roads and railways all reduce natural habitats to remnants of different size.

In addition to the overall decrease in the area available for the organisms, the fragmentation of habitats leads to a division of existing populations into isolated subpopulations of small size and changes in habitat characteristics in the fragments.

It is generally assumed that habitat fragmentation contributes significantly to the local extinction of animal and plant species. Unfortunately, inventories of animal and plant species in “natural” fragments do not allow a discrimination between different factors that cause local population extinction.

This article outlines a long-term field experiment in which calcareous grassland in the Swiss Jura mountains is artificially fragmented into patches of different size. The experiment allows the investigation of extinction and (re)colonization processes of selected species of plants and animals in the newly-created fragments with respect to demographic traits, population sizes, levels of genetic variation and differences in mating systems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1995

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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