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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 19;8(6):e66495. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066495. Print 2013.

Effect of Landscape Structure on Species Diversity.

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  • 1Departamento de FĂ­sica, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.


The effects of habitat fragmentation and their implications for biodiversity is a central issue in conservation biology which still lacks an overall comprehension. There is not yet a clear consensus on how to quantify fragmentation even though it is quite common to couple the effects of habitat loss with habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Here we address the spatial patterns of species distribution in fragmented landscapes, assuming a neutral community model. To build up the fragmented landscapes, we employ the fractional Brownian motion approach, which in turn permits us to tune the amount of habitat loss and degree of clumping of the landscape independently. The coupling between the neutral community model, here simulated by means of the coalescent method, and fractal neutral landscape models enables us to address how the species-area relationship changes as the spatial patterns of a landscape is varied. The species-area relationship is one of the most fundamental laws in ecology, considered as a central tool in conservation biology, and is used to predict species loss following habitat disturbances. Our simulation results indicate that the level of clumping has a major role in shaping the species-area relationship. For instance, more compact landscapes are more sensitive to the effects of habitat loss and speciation rate. Besides, the level of clumping determines the existence and extension of the power-law regime which is expected to hold at intermediate scales. The distributions of species abundance are strongly influenced by the degree of fragmentation. We also show that the first and second commonest species have approximately self-similar spatial distributions across scales, with the fractal dimensions of the support of the first and second commonest species being very robust to changes in the spatial patterns of the landscape.

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