Identifying habitat fragmentation sensitivity syndromes in Holarctic plants and birds

MINECO, 2014-2017.

Habitat loss usually involves fragmentation, which in turn aggravates the effects of this habitat loss on biodiversity. This has been the most generally accepted view to date, but it is diametrically opposed to the recently proposed Habitat Amount Hypothesis (HAH), a change of paradigm which suggests that fragmentation as such is irrelevant and that the richness of specialist species in a given habitat only depends on the amount of their habitat that remains, in a classic species-area relationship.

This project focuses on forest habitats. Firstly, it aims to test the HAH for the species richness of trees and birds in Spain, Europe and North America. For this purpose, we process published databases on the distribution of species and habitat types in the three regions and identify which species are forest specialists, using habitat suitability mapping techniques in order to relate species occurrence to habitat characteristics. This project also undertakes a systematic search of these traits in order to identify potential groups (or syndromes) that could be associated with fragmentation-sensitive species. These syndromes can be used by conservation managers to identify in advance which species are likely to suffer in fragmented habitats.