Spatial pattern of habitat quality modulates population persistence in fragmented landscapes

Xinping Ye*, Tiejun Wang, Andrew K. Skidmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Habitat quality is one of the important factors determining population dynamics and persistence, yet few studies have examined the effects of spatial heterogeneity in within-patch habitat quality. In this paper, we use a spatially explicit agent-based model to investigate how habitat fragmentation and spatial pattern of within-patch habitat quality affect population dynamics and long-term persistence. We simulate three levels of habitat fragmentation (ranges from continuous to highly fragmented) and three types of spatial patterns in habitat quality within patches (i.e., negatively autocorrelated, randomly distributed, and positively autocorrelated). Hypothetical species differ in their niche specialization. The results demonstrate explicitly that the spatial pattern of within-patch habitat quality plays an important role in modulating the effects of habitat fragmentation on populations. Populations become less variable in size, and experience lower probability of extinction in landscapes with positively autocorrelated within-patch habitat quality. Specifically, specialized species are more vulnerable to habitat fragmentation, but this vulnerability is greatly mitigated by positively autocorrelated habitat quality within patches, in other words, exhibiting higher resistance to habitat fragmentation. The findings of this study suggest that managing habitat quality in existing habitat remnants is important to preserve species in habitats undergoing fragmentation, particularly for those with specialized habitat requirements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-958
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Spatial autocorrelation
  • Niche specialization
  • Habitat quality
  • Agent-based model


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