New York, July 25 (IANS) While habitat disruption by human activities can result in quick loss of species, timely action to expand and connect remaining habitats could slow extinction rates and save species, say researchers.
“This study has important implications for conservation, whether it’s in national parks, tropical forest remnants, or oceanic islands,” said William Newmark from the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah in the US.
“It emphasises the importance of acting quickly,” Newmark noted.
In the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, Newmark and colleagues reviewed 43 previous studies from 1971 to the present time that included descriptions of biodiversity loss following habitat fragmentation in five taxonomic groups — mammals, plants, birds, reptiles and invertebrates.
The researchers found that patterns of species loss following habitat disruption are similar among birds, mammals, plants, reptiles and invertebrates.
These similar patterns emerge if species loss is calculated in terms of average population size and time for a new generation to arise for these taxonomic groups.
“With those two constants along with historical and current species numbers, we can predict the rate at which species will be lost in habitat remnants,” Newmark said.
When natural habitats are lost, species lose the physical space and resources they need to continue growing and expanding.
Habitats are usually lost due to human activity, such as building roads or clear-cutting a forest.
After such a disturbance, the habitat can no longer support the number of species that live there and species begin to disappear until the habitat reaches a new normal.
The study also confirmed that species loss occurs more quickly in small habitats versus large ones.
But the halfway point of species loss could be extended by expanding the area of the remaining habitat fragments, the researchers said.
“Creating connectivity between habitat remnants reduces this rate of species loss,” Newmark said.