Effects of Habitat Fragmentation

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

1. Lecture: Introduction. Review of human population increase, and historical and recent species extinctions. Introducing spatial scale and species specificity, as key issues. Defining habitat destruction, fragmentation; natural versus anthropogenic fragmentation. Effects of fragmentation on small populations.

2. Lecture: Genetic stochasticity in small populations. Fragmentation results in small isolated populations, where genetic diversity declines. As a results, evolutionary potential, and fitness also declines. Important process are simulated using education software (NEMESIS - Conservation Biology Simulations (Gilpin, M. E. 1993)).

3. Lecture: Demographic stochasticity. Defining demography, and showing its importance in conservation biology. Introducing the source-sink population models, with examples on the practical application. Population viability analysis.

4. Lecture: Metapopulations. Introducing the metapopulation concept, with a historical approach. Limits of the theory, and successful application examples. Case study on the Fritillaria butterfly. The mesopredator release hypothesis. Simulation of metapopulation processes with the NEMESIS - Conservation Biology Simulations (Gilpin, M. E. 1993) program.

5. Lecture: Biotic homogenization. Habitats are more homogeneous due to human modifications. There are many examples, including climate change, genetic homogenization due to invasion, etc. Linking biotic homogenization to cultural homogenizations.

6. Lecture: Species-area relationship, island biogeography. Species number is increasing with area sampled, and decreases as isolation increases. Presenting models, theories, and the importance in the history of ecology.

7. Lecture: Species composition in habitat fragments. Species composition may be random or not random. Not random pattern can be checkerboard like, or nested. Evaluation of the pattern types, and presentation of the Nestedness Temperature Calculator program.

8. Lecture: Edge effect I. Defining edge, ecotone, edge effect. Environmental edge effect, biological effects, and indirect biological effects. Nest predation and brood parasitism edge effect.

9. óra: Edge effect II. Species specificity, spatial scale dependence and edge type influence on edge effect. Behavioural response to habitat edges. From edge effect to landscape heterogeneity.

10-11. Lecture: Corridors. History of the corridor concept. Definitions, types, morphology. Benefits and costs of corridors. Roads as corridors.

12-13. Lectures: Reserve design. Problems of the conservation of natural dynamic systems. Reserve network design and analysis. The shortcomings of ad hoc reserve design. Methodological issues: GIS, gap analysis. Biodiversity hot-spots, cold-spots. Scientific basis of the Natura 2000 in Hungary.

14. Lecture: Consultation. Possibility to discuss questions, and/or provide further information for interested students.

  • Groom, M. J., Meffe, G., & Carroll, C. R. 2005. Principles of Conservation Biology. Sinauer Ass. Sunderland, MA, USA.

  • Fahrig, L. 2003. Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 34: 487-515.

  • Ries, L., Fletcher, R. J., Battin, J. & Sisk, T. D. 2004. Ecological responses to habitat edges: Mechanisms, Models, and Variability Explained. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 35: 491-522.