A systematic review reveals changes in where and how we have studied habitat loss and fragmentation over 20 years

Dini Fardila, Luke T. Kelly, Joslin L Moore, Michael Andrew McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Habitat loss and fragmentation are global threats to biodiversity and major research topics in ecology and conservation biology. We conducted a systematic review to assess where – the geographic locations and habitat types - and how – the study designs, conceptual underpinnings, landscape metrics and biodiversity measures - scientists have studied fragmentation over the last two decades. We sampled papers from 1994 to 2016 and used regression modelling to explore changes in fragmentation research over time. Habitat loss and fragmentation studies are geographically and taxonomically biased. Almost 85% of studies were conducted in America and Europe, with temperate forests and birds the most studied groups. Most studies use a binary conceptual model of landscapes (habitat versus non-habitat) and static measures of biodiversity. However, research on fragmentation is slowly shifting from a focus on coarse patterns to more nuanced representations of biodiversity and landscapes that better represent ecological processes. For example, empirical research based on gradient or continuum models, that offer new insights into landscape complexity and species-specific responses to habitat fragmentation, are increasing in prevalence. We recommend that fragmentation research focuses on developing knowledge on underlying mechanisms and processes of how species respond to landscape changes, and that fragmentation studies be conducted in the full range of habitats currently experiencing high rates of landscape modification. This is crucial if we are to understand relationships between biodiversity and ecosystems and to develop effective management strategies in fragmented landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-138
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue numberPart A
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Biodiversity
  • Connectivity
  • Continuum model
  • Global change
  • Landscape mosaic
  • Taxonomic bias

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