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Forest Fragmentation

  • By: Nina Hewitt
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Forest fragmentation is an aspect of deforestation. It refers to the conversion of relatively continuous forests into a system of isolated forest patches separated by agricultural, urban, or other human land use. The forest remnants may represent areas unsuitable for conversion for economic, physical, political, or cultural reasons (e.g., because of steep terrain or for nature preserve creation). Forest fragmentation is pervasive worldwide. Large-scale forest clearance and fragmentation began in parts of Europe and Asia that had long histories of dense human settlement. It spread to North America during the European settlement about 200 to 300 years ago, beginning with the eastern and midwestern forests (Figure 1). While the abandonment of marginal farmland later facilitated reforestation of some areas, many areas remain where the forest ...

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