Habitat Loss

By Sound Science

For many plants and animals, the most basic threat is simple loss of habitat -- the conversion of their required habitat to some other use. But habitat loss can be subtle. In modern, human-dominated environments natural habitats are often fragmented into small patches of native community surrounded by “non habitat." These are sometime referred to as habitat islands. Habitat fragmentation can create problems for animals that do not want to or cannot cross areas they perceive as unsuitable habitat. Edge effects are the impact of a disturbed habit bordering a natural habitat. The effects can include spread of invasive species, significant change in environmental conditions, or increased predation. 

It has been documented that these edge effects can extend hundreds of meters into a natural area. Thus, in small preserves the problem of “edge effects” may be significant and extend throughout the area. Both fragmentation and edge effects are ways in which habitat that seems suitable for the organisms is in fact degraded in subtle ways.

An additional consideration is that ecological communities are often maintained by natural processes (e.g., fire, flooding, or herbivory). Their suppression due to development or other human use can lead to a change in community character, and possibly the eventual loss of species dependent upon specific ecological processes for survival.

Ecological communities naturally change in a successional process. Herbaceous communities tend to transform into forested ones. These naturally occurring changes can threaten conservation values at specific sites and should be considered and addressed.

Biological harvesting can be valuable activities that support conservation efforts, but they can also disrupt natural ecological processes and can contribute to habitat loss for certain species.

Sound Science LLC assists many land management organizations with site conservation planning, goal setting, land management, and measures of success.

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