Date of Award

Summer 2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Dr. James L. Watling

Abstract

Habitat destruction is the leading threat to biodiversity worldwide, causing once continuous landscapes to become fragmented and isolated and harming the persistence of biodiversity. Our goal was to determine how species richness in fragmented forest landscapes is influenced by the vegetation density of the surrounding matrix. We gathered existing studies of fragmented landscapes with Species Area Relationship (SAR) data and analyzed the landscape vegetation in each study site using satellite imagery in ArcGIS. We investigated to see how contrast between vegetation density in matrix versus forested habitat areas correlated to the strength of the SAR for the 45 study landscapes included. We found that overall SAR was stronger in landscapes with high contrast matrices than low contrast matrices. This relationship was even stronger in landscapes with <15% habitat left and when considering only birds and flying invertebrate taxonomic groups. In general, we found that habitat remnant size is a good predictor of species richness when landscape contrast is high, suggesting that species move less frequently between fragments and that high contrast matrices are inhospitable to the majority of species analyzed in our analysis. Based on our findings as well as by example from other conservation efforts, we suggest both active and passive forest restoration in high contrast matrices as an initial measure to increase connectivity and restore biodiversity in fragmented landscapes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

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