Habitat destruction and the extinction debt revisited: The Allee effect
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Habitat destruction, often caused by anthropogenic disturbance, can lead to the extinction of species at an unprecedented rate. It is important, therefore, to consider habitat destruction when assessing population viability. Another factor often ignored in population viability analysis, is the Allee effect that adds to the risk of populations already on the verge of extinction. Understanding the Allee effect on species dynamics and response to habitat destruction has intrinsic value in conservation prioritization. Here, the Allee effect was considered in a multi-species hierarchical competition model. Results showed that species persistence declines dramatically due to the Allee effect, and certain species become more susceptible to habitat destruction than others. Two extinction orders emerged under habitat destruction: either the best competitor becomes extinct first or the best colonizer first. The extinction debt and order, as well as the time lag between habitat destruction and species extinction, were found to be determined by species abundance and the intensity of the Allee effect.
- RESEARCH: Hui C