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While there are a number of negative effects on natural systems associated with land development and urban expansion, the most direct impact is simply the outright destruction of complex functioning natural communities and the replacement of these communities with simplified, ecologically depauperate landscapes. Healthy ecosystems provide a multitude of services for both humans and wildlife; erosion control, sediment retention, soil formation, nutrient cycling, waste treatment, pollination, water supply and water regulation are just a few examples. Short of outright habitat destruction, however, fragmentation of the remaining habitat results in myriad negative effects on ecosystem function, habitat quality, species diversity and species abundance.
For more information, see: Habitat Assessment, Section V (PDF)