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The effects of habitat fragmentation on extinction risk: Mechanisms and synthesis

Author(s): Tormod V. Burkey | David H. Reed

Journal: Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technology
ISSN 0125-3395

Volume: 28;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2006;
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Keywords: endangered species | environmental stochasticity | extinction | habitat fragmentation | genetic stochasticity | metapopulations

Across the globe, much current research reflects concerns over the effect of habitat fragmentation on the viability of species and populations. This is an immediate and important concern for the Kingdom of Thailand, where decisions about land use are at a critical juncture. Thailand is in danger of losing species that play a special role in Thai culture and history such as the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and the tiger (Panthera tigris). We provide a selective review and synthesis of the effects of habitat fragmentation on extinction risk. Our emphasis is on objectives, causal mechanisms, and the validity of some of the arguments that have been made in the debate. Heuristic models are explored to elucidate mechanisms that may affect populations in fragmented landscapes and we point out gaps in our knowledge of this important and complicated question. Our synthesis of the current evidence suggests that fragmenting landscapes usually increases the risk of extinction, especially as the isolation of patches increases or the size of patches decreases. The Kingdom of Thailand, and other countries facing similar circumstances, should seek to connect isolated patches of habitat in order to better protect their remaining biodiversity.
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