Habitat loss poses a severe threat to biodiversity. While many studies yield valuable information on how specific species cope with such environmental modification, the mechanistic understanding of how interacting species or whole communities are affected by habitat loss is still poor. Individual movement plays a crucial role for the space use characteristics of species, since it determines how individuals perceive and use their heterogeneous environment. At the community level, it is therefore essential to include individual movement and how it is influenced by resource sharing into the investigation of consequences of habitat loss. To elucidate the effects of foraging movement on communities in face of habitat loss, we here apply a recently published spatially-explicit and individual-based model of home range formation. This approach allows predicting the individual size distribution (ISD) of mammal communities in simulation landscapes that vary in the amount of suitable habitat. We apply three fundamentally different foraging movement approaches (central place forager (CPF), patrolling forager (PF) and body mass dependent nomadic forager (BNF)). Results show that the efficiency of the different foraging strategies depends on body mass, which again affects community structure in face of habitat loss. CPF is only efficient for small animals, and therefore yields steep ISD exponents on which habitat loss has little effect (due to a movement limitation of body mass). PF and particularly BNF are more efficient for larger animals, resulting in less steep ISDs with higher mass maxima, both showing a threshold behaviour with regard to loss of suitable habitat. These findings represent a new way of explaining observed 'extinction thresholds', and therefore indicate the importance of individual space use characterized by physiology and behaviour, i.e. foraging movement, for communities and their response to habitat loss. Findings also indicate the necessity to incorporate the crucial role of movement into future conservation efforts of terrestrial communities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics