Significant finding on loss of species diversity in the Santa Monica Mountains
National Park Service and USGS scientists working in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area have published the first peer reviewed evidence of significant population genetic changes caused by habitat fragmentation.
As part of the study, scientists looked at three common species of lizards and a small song bird (or wrentit) and how they are being affected by urbanization and fragmentation. The study looked at isolated scrubland patches surrounding Thousand Oaks and State Route 23 -- an area that was mostly contiguous wilderness only 50 years ago. The data shows that the populations of lizards and wrentits have become disconnected and isolated as their natural habitats have become divided. Unable to cross urban barriers, the populations have begun to inbreed and loose genetic diversity. The consequences may lead to extinction over time -- a reality that could be accelerated by climate and other environmental changes.
The findings underscore the significance of our work as land use planners and protected area managers to conserve linkages and natural area connectivity.
The article is published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE and is available at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0012767.
Published: Friday, October 22, 2010