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2 Tutorials that teach Habitat Fragmentation
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Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat Fragmentation

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Determine the possible outcomes of habitat fragmentation.

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what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of habitat fragmentation. We will discuss what happens to habitat as a result of land development, including the creation of sub-populations, such as source and sink populations. We will explore efforts to mitigate habitat fragmentation, such as corridors and nature preserves, the work of a scientific discipline known as restoration ecology.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Habitat Fragmentation
  2. Sink and Source Populations
  3. Corridors and Nature Preserves
  4. Restoration Ecology

1. Habitat Fragmentation

As humans develop land for various uses, there is significant habitat loss and environmental degradation. The result is that habitat is broken up into smaller and smaller isolated patches, which can have severe impacts on biodiversity.

Logging Road

Land development also increases the amount of edge habitat, which is different from interior habitat. This leads to differences in the types of species that live in the interior versus on the edges of habitats.

The effects of habitat fragmentation on individual species include:

  • Species that were formerly connected may become isolated
  • Species that require large areas to feed and mate may not survive
  • Species successful in edge habitats will increase in population size, while those that are successful in interior habitats will decline

2. Sink and Source Populations

Habitat fragmentation tends to create sub-populations. Two notable types are sink and source populations.

  • Sink populations are those that are too small to be able to survive without outside immigrants providing a large-enough gene pool. Because of this, the likelihood of sink populations going extinct is high.
  • Source populations are those that tend to expand and populate areas like sink populations because they are large enough.

The relationship between sub-populations, particularly source and sink populations, is important for the survival of all species. If too many populations become too small like sink populations, then an entire species might go extinct.

3. Corridors and Nature Preserves

Attempts to mitigate habitat fragmentation are often in the form of corridors. Corridors are strips of habitat that connect patches of fragmented habitats. Movement corridors are those narrow strips which allow species movement between patches. While corridors can result unintentionally from human development, some have also been artificially created with the intent of preserving biodiversity.


Nature preserves are areas of land that have been determined to be of high ecological value and designated to be protected with little human disturbance. They tend to have high biodiversity and provide large areas of unfragmented habitats in order to facilitate the success of many animals who need large areas to hunt and thrive.

4. Restoration Ecology

Restoration ecology is a scientific discipline that creates areas like corridors and nature preserves in its study of the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interaction with the environment. The intention is to determine ways to restore damaged or destroyed ecosystems.


Tropical forests and their high biodiversity are being degraded and destroyed. Restoration ecologists are trying to help identify causes of destruction and determine which native species of plants can be planted to help tropical forests restore themselves to their natural state.

Today we learned about habitat fragmentation, the result of significant habitat loss and environmental degradation, caused by human land development. We learned about two types of sub-populations — sink and source populations — created as a result of habitat fragmentation. Lastly, we learned about the scientific discipline of restoration ecology and its efforts to restore damaged or destroyed ecosystems, including the creation of corridors and nature preserves.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, LOGGING ROAD CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1D1L2JQ NATURAL CORRIDOR CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1IYXHZV