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Ecology Letters


Decades of research suggest that species richness depends on spatial characteristics of habitat patches, especially their size and isolation. In contrast, the habitat amount hypothesis predicts that (1) species richness in plots of fixed size (species density) is more strongly and positively related to the amount of habitat around the plot than to patch size or isolation; (2) habitat amount better predicts species density than patch size and isolation combined, (3) there is no effect of habitat fragmentation per se on species density and (4) patch size and isolation effects do not become stronger with declining habitat amount. Data on eight taxonomic groups from 35 studies around the world support these predictions. Conserving species density requires minimising habitat loss, irrespective of the configuration of the patches in which that habitat is contained.