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NATURE IN FRAGMENTS: THE LEGACY OF SPRAWL

INTRODUCTION

Biological diversity (or biodiversity, for short) is the variety of life on Earth and the interactions, cycles, and processes of nature that link it all together. In its broadest definition, biodiversity includes individual species, the genetic diversity within species, the natural communities in which these species interact, and the ecosystems and landscapes in which species evolve and coexist (Noss and Cooperrider 1994). Although conservation efforts to protect biodiversity tend to focus on unique plants or rare animals, biodiversity actually encompasses all nature, including both common and rare components and even more obscure organisms such as fungi and microbes.

Ecologists now recognize that natural events such as fires, floods, and hurricanes are fundamental to ecosystem integrity. These processes can be predictable disruptive events, such as annual flooding and fires that cycle through a forest with relative frequency, or unpredictable and infrequent largescale disturbances, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions. All are critical to the maintenance of ecosystems and the species these systems support. Sprawling development interferes with these natural disturbance regimes by suppressing or altering them. In addition, sprawl fosters other novel anthropogenic disturbances, such as clearing for home construction, trampling of soil and vegetation, dumping, or vandalism, which…

Pollination, broadly defined, is the transfer of pollen within and between compatible flowers. Pollen carries the male nuclei, so pollination is a key step for sexual reproduction by seed plants, the group that dominates Earth’s terrestrial flora. Primary agents of pollination include wind, some birds and bats, and insects, especially bees, but also some kinds of beetles, flies, wasps, moths, and butterflies. Too little is known to generalize about links among sprawl, pollination, and seed set overall, but urban and suburban sprawl does alter ecological features important to pollinators, such as plant community composition and reproductive opportunities.

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