Habitat loss is one of the most pressing issues facing biodiversity today, and the conversion of natural land into residential and commercial development is the primary cause of this in Virginia. Without proper planning, this conversion can occur in a scattered and disorganized manner, consuming an excessive amount of land and leading to fragmentation of the landscape. This has had a significant impact on Virginia's biodiversity, as roads and other developments have reduced the amount of large tracts of natural vegetation in the state. These large patches have greater benefits than the same total area of natural vegetation when distributed among smaller patches, such as increased species richness and a variety of ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services are often overlooked as landscapes are developed, largely because traditional economic analyses that incorporate the financial benefits of development often do not include the financial benefits of ecosystem services. Studies have estimated that these services contribute as much or more to the global economy as market processes (Costanza et al.). These financial benefits increase even more when considering the recreational opportunities offered by natural lands and the tourist revenues they generate. Certain species require deep coverage within a continuous habitat that is far from natural or human-induced borders.
These central areas, which for sensitive inland species can be many times the size of their ranges, isolate species from side effects that negatively affect their ability to survive and reproduce. Edge effects such as predation by edge-dwelling species, parasitism by brown-headed thrushes, competition for nest cavities with European starlings, and environmental changes due to differences in wind speed, temperature, light, and relative humidity (Harris 198) can all have a significant impact on songbird populations. The loss of connectivity is another factor affecting species in fragmented landscapes. As development occurs in scattered patterns, remaining natural lands are also scattered resulting in fragments that have ecological similarities to real islands surrounded by water.
These fragments are isolated not only by distance from other fragments but also by predominant land cover surrounding them - known as matrix - which individuals may not try to cross or may not succeed at crossing if it is hard enough. Therefore populations in isolated areas may experience a decrease in genetic exchange with populations of other fragments leading to inbreeding and eventually local extinctions. Recreational activities have become increasingly accessible due to advances in technology such as GPS navigation systems making it easier for people to find outdoor activities near them; this has had a positive impact on northern Virginia's community allowing people access to nature while promoting physical activity mental health benefits social interaction educational opportunities economic growth through tourism jobs etc. The availability of recreational activities has also had an impact on conservation efforts; people who engage in outdoor activities tend to be more aware of environmental issues leading them to become more involved in conservation efforts such as volunteering for cleanups or joining conservation organizations.