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Climate change meets habitat fragmentation: linking landscape and biogeographical scale levels in research and conservation

Year of publication2004
Author(s)Paul Opdam
Co-authorsWascher Dirk
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conversation
Magazine No.Vol. 117
Publication typeJournal article
Climate change and habitat fragmentation are considered key pressures on biodiversity. In this paper we explore the potential synergetic effects between these factors. We argue that processes at two levels of spatial scale interact: the metapopulation level and the species range level. Current concepts of spatially dynamic metapopulations and species ranges are consistent, and integration improves our understanding of the interaction of landscape level and geographical range level processes. In landscape zones in which the degree of habitat fragmentation allows persistence, the shifting of ranges is inhibited, but not blocked. In areas where the spatial cohesion of the habitat is below the critical level of metapopulation persistence, the expansion of ranges will be blocked. An increased frequency of large-scale disturbances caused by extreme weather events will cause increasing gaps and an overall contraction of the distribution range, particularly in areas with relatively low levels of spatial cohesion. Taking into account the effects of climate change on metapopulations, habitat distribution and land use changes, future biodiversity research and conservation strategies are facing the challenge to re-orient their focus and scope by integrating spatially and conceptually more dynamic aspects at the landscape level.