Habitat fragmentation, percolation theory and the conservation of a keystone species

G. P. Boswell, N. F. Britton, N. R. Franks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Citations (SciVal)


Many species survive in specialized habitats. When these habitats are destroyed or fragmented the threat of extinction looms. In this paper, we use percolation theory to consider how an environment may fragment. We then develop a stochastic, spatially explicit, individual-based model to consider the effect of habitat fragmentation on a keystone species (the army ant Eciton burchelli) in a neotropical rainforest. The results suggest that species may become extinct even in huge reserves before their habitat is fully fragmented; this has important implications for conservation. We show that sustainable forest-harvesting strategies may not be as successful as is currently thought. We also suggest that habitat corridors, once thought of as the saviour for fragmented environments, may have a detrimental effect on population persistence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1921-1925
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1409
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 1998


  • Conservation
  • Extinction
  • Habitat corridors
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Percolation theory
  • Tropical rainforest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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