ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION

The Whole Is the Sum of the Parts

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Science  24 Aug 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5841, pp. 1011
DOI: 10.1126/science.317.5841.1011b

The fragmentation of natural ecosystems as a by-product of human activity is generally held to have adverse consequences for biodiversity, because it reduces the area of each habitat as well as the opportunities for dispersal and gene flow. Yaacobi et al. tease apart the effects of areal loss from those of degree of fragmentation in a Mediterranean scrub ecosystem in Israel. The total number of species of beetles and plants remained unaffected by the degree of subdivision of the landscape: a patch of area A having a similar number of species to n smaller patches of total area A. Despite this absence of an effect, the authors caution that the absolute number of species is not the only goal of conservation. Fragmentation also affects the abundance of individual species, some of which may be charismatic, and the composition of ecological communities in patches, features that are key determinants of ecosystem health. — AMS

Proc. R. Soc. London B 274, 10.1098/rspb.2007.0674 (2007).

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