Habitat fragmentation resulting in overgrazing by herbivores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Habitat fragmentation sometimes results in outbreaks of herbivorous insect and causes an enormous loss of primary production. It is hypothesized that the driving force behind such herbivore outbreaks is disruption of natural enemy attack that releases herbivores from top-down control. To test this hypothesis I studied how trophic community structure changes along a gradient of habitat fragmentation level using spatially implicit and explicit models of a tri-trophic (plant, herbivore and natural enemy) food chain. While in spatially implicit model number of trophic levels gradually decreases with increasing fragmentation, in spatially explicit model a relatively low level of habitat fragmentation leads to overgrazing by herbivore to result in extinction of the plant population followed by a total system collapse. This provides a theoretical support to the hypothesis that habitat fragmentation can lead to overgrazing by herbivores and suggests a central role of spatial structure in the influence of habitat fragmentation on trophic communities. Further, the spatially explicit model shows (i) that the total system collapse by the overgrazing can occur only if herbivore colonization rate is high; (ii) that with increasing natural enemy colonization rate, the fragmentation level that leads to the system collapse becomes higher, and the frequency of the collapse is lowered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-460
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003 Dec 21
Externally publishedYes


  • Cellular automaton
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Herbivore's outbreak
  • Overgrazing
  • Tri-trophic systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


Dive into the research topics of 'Habitat fragmentation resulting in overgrazing by herbivores'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this