Habitat loss and fragmentation affecting mammal and bird communities-The role of interspecific competition and individual space use

Carsten M. Buchmann*, Frank M. Schurr, Ran Nathan, Florian Jeltsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Fragmentation and loss of habitat are major threats to animal communities and are therefore important to conservation. Due to the complexity of the interplay of spatial effects and community processes, our mechanistic understanding of how communities respond to such landscape changes is still poor. Modelling studies have mostly focused on elucidating the principles of community response to fragmentation and habitat loss at relatively large spatial and temporal scales relevant to metacommunity dynamics. Yet, it has been shown that also small scale processes, like foraging behaviour, space use by individuals and local resource competition are also important factors. However, most studies that consider these smaller scales are designed for single species and are characterized by high model complexity. Hence, they are not easily applicable to ecological communities of interacting individuals. To fill this gap, we apply an allometric model of individual home range formation to investigate the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on mammal and bird communities, and, in this context, to investigate the role of interspecific competition and individual space use. Results show a similar response of both taxa to habitat loss. Community composition is shifted towards higher frequency of relatively small animals. The exponent and the 95%-quantile of the individual size distribution (ISD, described as a power law distribution) of the emerging communities show threshold behaviour with decreasing habitat area. Fragmentation per se has a similar and strong effect on mammals, but not on birds. The ISDs of bird communities were insensitive to fragmentation at the small scales considered here. These patterns can be explained by competitive release taking place in interacting animal communities, with the exception of bird's buffering response to fragmentation, presumably by adjusting the size of their home ranges. These results reflect consequences of higher mobility of birds compared to mammals of the same size and the importance of considering competitive interaction, particularly for mammal communities, in response to landscape fragmentation. Our allometric approach enables scaling up from individual physiology and foraging behaviour to terrestrial communities, and disentangling the role of individual space use and interspecific competition in controlling the response of mammal and bird communities to landscape changes.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)90-98
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Informatics
StatePublished - Mar 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank N. Blaum and E. Rosmanith and various members from the research group Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation of the University of Potsdam for helpful suggestions and ideas, as well as D. Ottaviani for providing us with her data on bird body masses and home ranges for re-analysis. C. Buchmann would like to thank the Graduate Initiative on Ecological Modelling (‘UpGrade’) of the University of Potsdam for financial support. F. Jeltsch and F. Schurr acknowledge support from the European Union through Marie Curie Transfer of Knowledge Project FEMMES ( MTKD-CT-2006-042261 ). R. Nathan gratefully acknowledges the Humboldt Foundation for the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Award that enabled this collaborative work, and the Israel Science Foundation ( ISF-FIRST 1316/05 and ISF 1259/09 ), the US–Israel Binational Science Foundation ( BSF 124/2004 and 255/2008 ), the German–Israeli Foundation ( GIF 999–66.8/2008 ), the German–Israeli Project Cooperation ( DIP NA 846/1-1 ), and Adelina and Massimo DellaPergola Chair of Life Sciences , for supporting his research on animal movement.


  • Allometry
  • Body size
  • Foraging movement
  • Fractal landscapes
  • Individual-based model
  • Locomotion costs


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