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Ecology. 2006 May;87(5):1086-93.

Response of predators to loss and fragmentation of prey habitat: a review of theory.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Despite extensive empirical research and previous reviews, no clear patterns regarding the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on predator-prey interactions have emerged. We suggest that this is because empirical researchers do not design their studies to test specific hypotheses arising from the theoretical literature. In fact, theoretical work is almost completely ignored by empirical researchers, perhaps because it may be inaccessible to them. The purpose of this paper is to review theoretical work on the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on predator-prey interactions. We provide a summary of clear, testable theoretical predictions for empirical researchers. To test one or more of these predictions, an empiricist will need certain information on the predator and prey species of interest. This includes: (1) whether the predator is a specialist on one prey species or feeds on many kinds of prey (omnivore and generalist); (2) whether the predator is restricted to the same habitat type as the focal prey (specialist), can use a variety of habitats but has higher survival in the prey habitat (omnivore), or lives primarily outside of the focal prey's habitat (generalist); (3) whether prey-only patches have lower prey extinction rates than predator-prey patches; and (4) whether the prey emigrate at higher rates from predator-prey patches than from prey-only patches. Empiricists also need to be clear on whether they are testing a prediction about habitat loss or habitat fragmentation and need to conduct empirical studies at spatial scales appropriate for testing the theoretical prediction(s). We suggest that appropriate use of the theoretical predictions in future empirical research will resolve the apparent inconsistencies in the empirical literature on this topic.

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