Volenec, Zoe M. and Andrew P. Dobson
The importance of large reserves has been long maintained in the scientific literature, often leading to dismissal of the conservation potential of small reserves. However, over half the global protected‐area inventory is composed of protected areas that are <100 ha, and the median size of added protected area is decreasing. Studies of the conservation value of small reserves and fragments of natural area are relatively uncommon in the literature. We reviewed SCOPUS and WOK for studies on small reserve and fragment contributions to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. Fifty‐eight taxon‐specific studies were included in the review. Small reserves harbored substantial portions (upwards of 50%) of regional species diversity for many taxa (birds, plants, amphibians, small mammals) and even some endemic, specialist bird species. Unfortunately, small reserves and fragments almost always harbored more generalist and exotic species than large reserves. Community composition depended on habitat quality, surrounding land use (agricultural versus urban), and reserve and fragment size, which presents opportunities for management and improvement. Small reserves also provided ecosystem services, such as pollination and biological pest control, and cultural services, such as recreation and improved human health. Limitations associated with small reserves, such as extinction debt and support of area‐sensitive species, necessitate a complement of larger reserves. However, we argue that small reserves can make viable and significant contributions to conservation goals directly as habitat and indirectly by increasing landscape connectivity and quality to the benefit of large reserves. To effectively conserve biodiversity for future generations in landscapes fragmented by human development, small reserves and fragments must be included in conservation planning.