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Title: Analysing and modelling the impact of habitat fragmentation on species diversity : a macroecological perspective
Author: Matthews, Thomas James
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The destruction and fragmentation of natural habitat is the leading driver of the current extinction crisis. As a result, a research area has emerged focused on studying ecology in islands of natural habitat surrounded by a sea of anthropogenic land uses, so called ‘habitat islands’. However, this research has largely been undertaken on small-medium scales, generally in single systems. Furthermore, many habitat island studies have used previous results and theory derived in the context of oceanic island research. Thus, this thesis aims to examine a variety of macroecological and biogeographical patterns using a large number of purely habitat datasets sourced from both the literature and my own sampling, with the objective of teasing out any general statistical patterns. The various macroecological and biogeographical patterns can be grouped under four broad headings: 1) species–area relationships (SAR), 2) nestedness, 3) species abundance distributions (SADs), and 4) species incidence functions (function of area). Overall, it was found that there were few hard macroecological generalities that hold in all cases across habitat island systems. This is because most habitat island systems are highly disturbed environments, with a variety of confounding variables and undesirable species (e.g. species associated with human land uses) acting to modulate the patterns of interest. Nonetheless, some clear patterns did emerge. In particular, it was found that the power model was by the far the best general SAR model for habitat islands. The slope of the island species–area relationship (ISAR) was related to the matrix type surrounding archipelagos, such that habitat island ISARs were shallower than true island ISARs. Significant compositional and functional nestedness was rare in habitat island datasets, although island area was seemingly responsible for what nestedness was observed. Species abundance distribution models were found to provide useful information for conservation in fragmented landscape, but the presence of undesirable species substantially affected the shape of the SAD. Species incidence function curves were found to vary across space for a given species, but not in any systematic manner. In conclusion, this thesis finds that the application of standard island biogeography theory to habitat islands is too simplistic. It is hoped that the results of this thesis will act as a catalyst for a more macroecological approach to habitat island research, and a starting point for the development of an integrated theory of habitat islands.
Supervisor: Whittaker, Robert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Biology ; Environment ; Biodiversity ; Environmental change ; Ecology (zoology) ; biogeography ; macroecology ; ecology ; habitat fragmentation ; habitat loss