Addressing Forest Fragmentation Through Art

Madisyn Gomez ’20, Caroline O'Connor

Editor’s Note: Madisyn Gomez graduated from Berkshire School in 2020. Now attending Wesleyan University, she is taking a class called Global Change and Infectious Disease. Below is an op-ed written by both Madi and a fellow classmate.

 In a world largely dominated by population growth and capital expansion, we are faced with a plethora of problems – spanning from increased carbon emissions to overcrowded cities. As a result of increasing global population, more and more countries are forced to expand their land to create new housing, work buildings, medical facilities, etc. In doing so, we are creating a new problem in and of itself – forest fragmentation. Often referred to as creating “postage-stamp forests”, forest fragmentation is “the breaking of large, contiguous, forested areas into smaller pieces of forest; typically these pieces are separated by roads, agriculture, utility corridors, subdivisions, or other human development.” There are three general effects of forest fragmentation: only ecological generalists will be able to find enough food because of their broad diet, there will be a greater diversity of microhabitats in large areas, and random fluctuations in population size are more likely to result in local extinctions. Additionally, a consequence is that wildlife is being pushed closer to human habitation at a higher rate than ever before. Even more consequently, these aforementioned effects create negative feedback loops leading to the increased transmission of infectious diseases. A common example of this is the increased transmission of lyme disease that we have seen throughout the past decade or two. The common field mouse Peromyscus Leucopus is an ecological generalist that thrives in the postage-stamp forests being created. These mice are poor groomers, and therefore easy targets for ticks to feed off of, resulting in high concentrations of lyme. The resulting effect is an increasing density of tick populations in whatever forest regions we have remaining – thus increasing the likelihood of lyme transmission to humans. This is only one example of numerous diseases that are becoming transmitted to humans at an accelerated rate due to increasing rates of forest fragmentation – others include Ebola, SARS-like viruses, and more. Unless a serious change in the rate of expansion into forested land comes around in the next decade, we are looking at a world plagued by new and emerging zoonotic pathogens entering society. 

 How to go about preventing forest fragmentation? We could either help promote reestablishing those ecosystems or encourage homeowners to seek sustainable structures in the future. Who are the future homeowners? These are young citizens currently working or living in big cities, heavily ingrained into the social media movements of the digital age. A targeted mural or graffiti campaign would reach this particular group with the goal of spreading awareness on forest fragmentation, and preventing these citizens from adding to the problem when they leave their cities to settle down and build a life. These murals would have specific images that should resonate quickly with viewers, gaining their attention and sympathy for the cause, and then directing their view towards a scan code or URL located at the bottom. An image like two typical white picket fence houses with a singular line of trees separating them, and then forest animals out on the streets to show that the construction of these houses ruins the habitat they need to survive, or a forest image with the only animals being the typical field mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, would demonstrate this. The URL and scan code would then bring viewers to a web page giving them more information on these concerns, and how to go about the housing market in the future. The benefit of the murals would be the large-scale artistic depiction of forest fragmentation that would be seen by a wide audience. While the specific goal would be to prevent homeowners from seeking the typical “mansion in the woods” that breaks up these ecosystems, by allowing viewers to see the website, they could also learn more about the ways they could support this cause, and prevent the spread of disease like Ebola and Lyme due to postage-stamp forests. 


Snyder, M. (2014, October 13). What is forest fragmentation and why is it a problem?: Autumn 2014: Art. Northern Woodlands. Retrieved December 11, 2021, from