Population fragmentation is a form of population segregation. It is often caused by habitat fragmentation. Population fragmentation causes inbreeding depression, which leads to a decrease in genetic variability in the species involved. This decreases the fitness of the population for several reasons. First, inbreeding forces competition with relatives, which decreases the evolutionary fitness of the species. Secondly, the decrease in genetic variability causes an increased possibility a lethal homozygous recessive trait may be expressed; this decreases the average litter size reproduced, indirectly decreasing the population. When a population is small, the influence of genetic drift increases, which leads to less and/or random fixation of alleles. In turn, this leads to increased homozygosity, negatively affecting individual fitness. The performance of plants may be compromised by less effective selection which causes an accumulation of deleterious mutations in small populations. Since individuals in small populations are more likely to be related, they are more likely to inbreed. A reduction in fitness may occur in small plant populations because of mutation accumulation, reduced genetic diversity, and increased inbreeding. Over time, the evolutionary potential and a species’s ability to adapt to a changing environment, such as climate change, is decreased.
- Proctor, Michael F.; McLellan, Bruce N. & Strobeck, Curtis (2002), "Population Fragmentation of Grizzly Bears in Southeastern British Columbia, Canada", Ursus 8: 153–160, JSTOR 3873196.
- Proctor, M. F.; McLellan, B. N.; Strobeck, C. & Barclay, R. M. R. (2005), "Genetic analysis reveals demographic fragmentation of grizzly bears yielding vulnerably small populations", Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272 (1579): 2409–2416, doi:10.1098/rspb.2005.3246, PMC 1559960, PMID 16243699.
- Krebs, C. J. (2009), Ecology: The Experimental Analysis of Distribution and Abundance (6th ed.), San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings, ISBN 978-0-321-50743-3.
- Leimu, R., Vergeer, P., Angeloni, F., & Ouborg, N. J. 2010. Habitat fragmentation, climate change, and inbreeding in plants. The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology 1195:84-98.