Animals that evolved in low-disturbance areas more 'sensitive' to modern disruption

December 05, 2019

Animal species that have evolved, and survived, in low-disturbance environments - with little interruption from glaciation, fires, hurricanes, or anthropogenic clearing - are more sensitive to modern forest fragmentation, report Matthew Betts and colleagues. Using information from more than 70 worldwide datasets, they show that the proportion of forest species sensitive to fragmentation was nearly three times higher in forest ecosystems with low rates of historical disturbance. Their results help to inform why the biological effects of forest fragmentation are so variable among species and places. Habitat loss is the primary driver of biodiversity decline worldwide, most scientists agree, but how habitat fragmentation influences species diversity has been a source of debate for decades. The "extinction filter" hypothesis predicts that species that have evolved in high-disturbance environments should be more likely to persist in the face of new disturbances, like logging or forest clearing. Betts and colleagues sought to test this hypothesis for global forests using global datasets representing over 4,400 species. For each global study site, they assembled previously available data on forest fire severity, whether or not its location was glaciated in the last glacial maximum, whether or not it experienced tropical storms, and if historical anthropogenic forest loss exceeded 50%. Across all species combined, the authors found strong support for the extinction filter hypothesis. This result was particularly strong for arthropods and birds, the authors say. "Our results partly reconcile the debate about the conservation importance of fragmentation and its effect on biodiversity," the authors write. They say their results also indicate that conservation actions designed to mitigate fragmentation effects can be tailored to the particular regions most likely to host sensitive species. The findings are discussed in more detail in a related Perspective.
-end-


American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Biodiversity Articles from Brightsurf:

Biodiversity hypothesis called into question
How can we explain the fact that no single species predominates?

Using the past to maintain future biodiversity
New research shows that safeguarding species and ecosystems and the benefits they provide for society against future climatic change requires effective solutions which can only be formulated from reliable forecasts.

Changes in farming urgent to rescue biodiversity
Humans depend on farming for their survival but this activity takes up more than one-third of the world's landmass and endangers 62% of all threatened species.

Predicting the biodiversity of rivers
Biodiversity and thus the state of river ecosystems can now be predicted by combining environmental DNA with hydrological methods, researchers from the University of Zurich and Eawag have found.

About the distribution of biodiversity on our planet
Large open-water fish predators such as tunas or sharks hunt for prey more intensively in the temperate zone than near the equator.

Bargain-hunting for biodiversity
The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Researchers solve old biodiversity mystery
The underlying cause for why some regions are home to an extremely large number of animal species may be found in the evolutionary adaptations of species, and how they limit their dispersion to specific natural habitats.

Biodiversity offsetting is contentious -- here's an alternative
A new approach to compensate for the impact of development may be an effective alternative to biodiversity offsetting -- and help nations achieve international biodiversity targets.

Biodiversity yields financial returns
Farmers could increase their revenues by increasing biodiversity on their land.

Biodiversity and wind energy
The location and operation of wind energy plants are often in direct conflict with the legal protection of endangered species.

Read More: Biodiversity News and Biodiversity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.