Matrix is important for mammals in landscapes with small amounts of native forest habitat

Megan J. Brady,1 • Clive A. McAlpine,1 • Hugh P. Possingham,2 • Craig J. Miller,3 • Greg S. Baxter,1

1School of Geography, Planning & Environmental Management, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia 

2The Ecology Centre, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia

3CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, 306 Carmody Road, St. Lucia, QLD 4067, Australia


Acknowledgment that the matrix matters in conserving wildlife in human-modified landscapes is increasing. However, the complex interactions of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat condition and land use have confounded attempts to disentangle the relative importance of properties of the landscape mosaic, including the matrix. To this end, we controlled for the amount of remnant forest habitat and the level of fragmentation to examine mammal species richness in human-modified landscapes of varying levels of matrix development intensity and patch attributes. We postulated seven alternative models of various patch habitat, landscape and matrix influences on mammal species richness and then tested these models using generalized linear mixedeffects models within an information theoretic framework. Matrix attributes were the most important determinants of terrestrial mammal species richness;
matrix development intensity had a strong negative effect and vegetation structural complexity of the matrix had a strong positive effect. Distance to the nearest remnant forest habitat was relatively unimportant. Matrix habitat attributes are potentially a more important indicator of isolation of remnant forest patches than measures of distance to the nearest patch. We conclude that a structurally complex matrix within a human-modified landscape can provide supplementary habitat resources and increase the probability of movement across the landscape, thereby increasing mammal species richness in modified landscapes.