Does dispersal influence extinction risk? A study of the beetles at the Wog Wog Habitat Fragmentation Study
Climate change and habitat fragmentation are growing threats to biodiversity. To be able to mitigate these threats, it is critical to know how species disperse through the landscape, but such knowledge is lacking. A key assumption, that dispersal is crucial in allowing species to survive in fragmented landscapes, is used as a basis to spend billions annually on land management regimes worldwide.
The Wog Wog experiment was established in 1985 to quantify the effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity and has produced very important findings about the effects of habitat fragmentation. New data emerging in 2011, from research led by Dr Davies at the University of Colorado, will identify species of beetle that have become extinct and those that have survived in the experimental fragments over 25 years. I aim to find out why these species show these responses.
I am using detailed species-level genetic and direct research combined with community-wide studies to identify the factors influencing the extinction or persistence of species in fragmented landscapes. By researching the dispersal capacity of beetle species with known responses to fragmentation, I hope to determine the influence of dispersal on the risk of extinction after fragmentation and provide evidence for methods to improve conservation of vulnerable species and reserve design, including large-scale connectivity projects worldwide.