The Failure Of Forest Fragments
October 26, 2013

The Failure Of Forest Fragments

What exactly is a forest fragment? According to one redOrbit article written by April Flowers, a forest fragment is an island-like forest that was once much larger. This island-like forest fragment is the result of felled and chopped forests from logging and other businesses, as well as human expansion into the forests. And these are having a seriously bad impact on the forest species. In fact, Flowers reports “An international team of scientists reveals that species living in rainforest fragments could be far more likely to disappear than was previously thought…The scope of the two decade study, published in the journal Science, allowed the researchers to witness the near-complete extinction of native small mammals on forest islands created by a large hydroelectric reservoir in Thailand.”

The extinction of these species surprised many because nobody expected such catastrophic devastation of local species. In other words, most thought the forest fragments would help keep these species from extinction. What a blow the extinction of the species was!

The research team spent two decades finding out what effect these forest fragments, also thought of as wildlife corridors, would have. They thought their findings would be positive so that conservationists could set up more forest fragments worldwide. But their findings, as published in the journal Science, showed quite the opposite.

The redOrbit article says, “Unfortunately, the research team saw native small mammals vanish with alarming speed. After 25 years, only a handful remained – on average one individual per forest fragment.” Additionally, invasive species played another role in the extinction of these species. In at least one case, the invasive species became so abundant that it replaced the native species. Between the smaller habitat in the forest fragment and the different invading species, the native species did not have a chance.

The hope was that forest fragments would provide a balance, a compromise, between conservationists and Naturalists with the industrialists and others. If the former could build more forest fragments and wildlife corridors, then the latter could continue to build and expand. But the research shows that the forest fragments do not provide a safe haven for native species. Rather, these lead to the complete extinction in many cases.

I appreciate that people were trying to find a way to balance native species’ needs with human needs, but I am not all that surprised at these findings. Whenever a species’ territory is diminished much happens to that species and the other species affected in the circle of life. If a predator is taken away from an ecosystem, the prey overbreeds. If the prey is taken away, the predator seeks other means of sustenance. Any change (any addition or deletion) within an ecosystem has its impact. It is no wonder that these forest fragments lead to extinction.

Flowers ended her article with a poignant quote from Luke Gibson from the National University of Singapore, who led the study: “The bottom line is that we must conserve large, intact habitats for nature…That’s the only way we can ensure biodiversity will survive.”

Image Credit: karamysh / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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