Anthropogenic habitat alteration is dramatically changing the spatial configuration of landscapes at unprecedented rates and is the leading cause of species extinctions. Understanding the effects of fragmentation is critical for conserving biological diversity and also offers an opportunity to test for controls over species distributions and community composition. Our research uses both spatial and temporal approaches to understand how landscape fragmentation affects plant communities. In particular, we are interested in the effects of landscape connectivity, which is theorized to increase population persistence and community diversity, but is rarely empirically tested at large scales.
Landscape corridors are a popular reserve design tool used to mitigate the negative effects of habitat fragmentation by linking otherwise isolated patches. We are exploring the effects of habitat fragmentation on the diversity and composition of plant communities using one of the best replicated large-scale habitat fragmentation experiments. We have found that connected patches can have higher species richness than unconnected patches, but that the effects of corridors depend on dispersal mode and can change over time. We are currently studying the long-term impacts of corridors on plant community diversity and composition with funding from a Long Term Research in Ecological Biology (LTREB) grant from the National Science Foundation.