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      Abundance and survival rates of three leaf-litter frog species in fragments and continuous forest of the Mata Atlântica, Brazil

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      Nature Conservation

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          Abstract

          Habitat destruction and fragmentation alter the quality of habitats and put populations under the risk of extinction. Changes in population parameters can provide early warning signs of negative impacts. In tropical forests, where habitat loss and fragmentation are vast, such indicators are of high relevance for directing conservation efforts before effects are irreversible. Most of our knowledge from tropical ecosystems originates from community level surveys, whereas our understanding of the influence of habitat conversion on vital rates of species is limited. This study focused on the influence of anthropogenic habitat fragmentation on the survival probability and abundance of three leaf-litter frog species (Rhinella ornata, Ischnocnema guentheri and I. parva) in forest patches of the Atlantic rainforest of South-east Brazil compared to a continuous forest. The species differ in their matrix tolerance: high for R. ornata and low for I. guentheri and I. parva and, thus, we examined whether their survival and abundance correspond to this classification. Ischnocnema guentheri showed highest abundances in all study sites and low mortality in the forest patches compared to the continuous forest; I. parva was encountered only in isolated fragments, with very low mortality in one isolated fragment; and the matrix tolerant species had generally low abundance and showed no clear pattern in terms of mortality in the different sites. Our counter-intuitive results show that even matrix sensitive amphibian species may show high abundance and low mortality in small forest patches. Therefore, these patches can be of high value for amphibian conservation regardless of their degree of matrix aversion. Landscape level conservation planning should not abandon small habitat patches, especially in highly fragmented tropical environments.

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          Modeling Survival and Testing Biological Hypotheses Using Marked Animals: A Unified Approach with Case Studies

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            Confounding factors in the detection of species responses to habitat fragmentation.

            Habitat loss has pervasive and disruptive impacts on biodiversity in habitat remnants. The magnitude of the ecological impacts of habitat loss can be exacerbated by the spatial arrangement -- or fragmentation -- of remaining habitat. Fragmentation per se is a landscape-level phenomenon in which species that survive in habitat remnants are confronted with a modified environment of reduced area, increased isolation and novel ecological boundaries. The implications of this for individual organisms are many and varied, because species with differing life history strategies are differentially affected by habitat fragmentation. Here, we review the extensive literature on species responses to habitat fragmentation, and detail the numerous ways in which confounding factors have either masked the detection, or prevented the manifestation, of predicted fragmentation effects. Large numbers of empirical studies continue to document changes in species richness with decreasing habitat area, with positive, negative and no relationships regularly reported. The debate surrounding such widely contrasting results is beginning to be resolved by findings that the expected positive species-area relationship can be masked by matrix-derived spatial subsidies of resources to fragment-dwelling species and by the invasion of matrix-dwelling species into habitat edges. Significant advances have been made recently in our understanding of how species interactions are altered at habitat edges as a result of these changes. Interestingly, changes in biotic and abiotic parameters at edges also make ecological processes more variable than in habitat interiors. Individuals are more likely to encounter habitat edges in fragments with convoluted shapes, leading to increased turnover and variability in population size than in fragments that are compact in shape. Habitat isolation in both space and time disrupts species distribution patterns, with consequent effects on metapopulation dynamics and the genetic structure of fragment-dwelling populations. Again, the matrix habitat is a strong determinant of fragmentation effects within remnants because of its role in regulating dispersal and dispersal-related mortality, the provision of spatial subsidies and the potential mediation of edge-related microclimatic gradients. We show that confounding factors can mask many fragmentation effects. For instance, there are multiple ways in which species traits like trophic level, dispersal ability and degree of habitat specialisation influence species-level responses. The temporal scale of investigation may have a strong influence on the results of a study, with short-term crowding effects eventually giving way to long-term extinction debts. Moreover, many fragmentation effects like changes in genetic, morphological or behavioural traits of species require time to appear. By contrast, synergistic interactions of fragmentation with climate change, human-altered disturbance regimes, species interactions and other drivers of population decline may magnify the impacts of fragmentation. To conclude, we emphasise that anthropogenic fragmentation is a recent phenomenon in evolutionary time and suggest that the final, long-term impacts of habitat fragmentation may not yet have shown themselves.
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              Conservation of Fragmented Populations

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Conservation
                NC
                Pensoft Publishers
                1314-3301
                1314-6947
                April 30 2018
                April 30 2018
                : 26
                : 77-96
                Article
                10.3897/natureconservation.26.25339
                © 2018

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