Functional decay in tree community within tropical fragmented landscapes: Effects of landscape-scale forest cover.
ABSTRACT: As tropical rainforests are cleared, forest remnants are increasingly isolated within agricultural landscapes. Understanding how forest loss impacts on species diversity can, therefore, contribute to identifying the minimum amount of habitat required for biodiversity maintenance in human-modified landscapes. Here, we evaluate how the amount of forest cover, at the landscape scale, affects patterns of species richness, abundance, key functional traits and common taxonomic families of adult trees in twenty Brazilian Atlantic rainforest landscapes. We found that as forest cover decreases, both tree community richness and abundance decline, without exhibiting a threshold. At the family-level, species richness and abundance of the Myrtaceae and Sapotaceae were also negatively impacted by the percent forest remaining at the landscape scale. For functional traits, we found a reduction in shade-tolerant, animal-dispersed and small-seeded species following a decrease in the amount of forest retained in landscapes. These results suggest that the amount of forest in a landscape is driving non-random losses in phylogenetic and functional tree diversity in Brazil's remaining Atlantic rainforests. Our study highlights potential restraints on the conservation value of Atlantic rainforest remnants in deforested landscapes in the future.
Project description:Population genetics theory predicts loss in genetic variability because of drift and inbreeding in isolated plant populations; however, it has been argued that long-distance pollination and seed dispersal may be able to maintain gene flow, even in highly fragmented landscapes. We tested how historical effective population size, historical migration and contemporary landscape structure, such as forest cover, patch isolation and matrix resistance, affect genetic variability and differentiation of seedlings in a tropical palm (Euterpe edulis) in a human-modified rainforest. We sampled 16 sites within five landscapes in the Brazilian Atlantic forest and assessed genetic variability and differentiation using eight microsatellite loci. Using a model selection approach, none of the covariates explained the variation observed in inbreeding coefficients among populations. The variation in genetic diversity among sites was best explained by historical effective population size. Allelic richness was best explained by historical effective population size and matrix resistance, whereas genetic differentiation was explained by matrix resistance. Coalescence analysis revealed high historical migration between sites within landscapes and constant historical population sizes, showing that the genetic differentiation is most likely due to recent changes caused by habitat loss and fragmentation. Overall, recent landscape changes have a greater influence on among-population genetic variation than historical gene flow process. As immediate restoration actions in landscapes with low forest amount, the development of more permeable matrices to allow the movement of pollinators and seed dispersers may be an effective strategy to maintain microevolutionary processes.
Project description:Landscape heterogeneity is regarded as a key factor for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in production landscapes. We investigated whether grassland sites at close vicinity to forested areas are more frequently used by bats. Considering that bats are important consumers of herbivorous insects, including agricultural pest, this is important for sustainable land management. Bat activity and species richness were assessed using repeated monitoring from May to September in 2010 with acoustic monitoring surveys on 50 grassland sites in the Biosphere Reserve Schorfheide-Chorin (North-East Germany). Using spatial analysis (GIS), we measured the closest distance of each grassland site to potentially connecting landscape elements (e.g., trees, linear vegetation, groves, running and standing water). In addition, we assessed the distance to and the percent land cover of forest remnants and urban areas in a 200 m buffer around the recording sites to address differences in the local landscape setting. Species richness and bat activity increased significantly with higher forest land cover in the 200 m buffer and at smaller distance to forested areas. Moreover, species richness increased in proximity to tree groves. Larger amount of forest land cover and smaller distance to forest also resulted in a higher activity of bats on grassland sites in the beginning of the year during May, June and July. Landscape elements near grassland sites also influenced species composition of bats and species richness of functional groups (open, edge and narrow space foragers). Our results highlight the importance of forested areas, and suggest that agricultural grasslands that are closer to forest remnants might be better buffered against outbreaks of agricultural pest insects due to higher species richness and higher bat activity. Furthermore, our data reveals that even for highly mobile species such as bats, a very dense network of connecting elements within the landscape is beneficial to promote activity in open areas and thus assure vital ecosystem function in agricultural landscapes.
Project description:Rainforests are undergoing severe deforestation and fragmentation worldwide. A huge amount of small forest patches are being created, but their value in conserving biodiversity and forest structure is still controversial. Here, we demonstrate that in a species-rich and moderately-managed Mexican tropical landscape small rainforest patches (<100 ha) can be highly valuable for the conservation of tree diversity and forest structure. These patches showed diverse communities of native plants, including endangered species, and a new record for the country. Although the number of logged trees increased in smaller patches, patch size was a poor indicator of basal area, stem density, number of species, genera and families, and community evenness. Cumulative species-area curves indicated that all patches had a similar contribution to the regional species diversity. This idea also was supported by the fact that patches strongly differed in floristic composition (high ?-diversity), independently of patch size. Thus, in agreement with the land-sharing approach, our findings support that small forest patches in moderately-managed landscapes should be included in conservation initiatives to maintain landscape heterogeneity, species diversity, and ecosystem services.
Project description:Ecological systems are vulnerable to irreversible change when key system properties are pushed over thresholds, resulting in the loss of resilience and the precipitation of a regime shift. Perhaps the most important of such properties in human-modified landscapes is the total amount of remnant native vegetation. In a seminal study Andrén proposed the existence of a fragmentation threshold in the total amount of remnant vegetation, below which landscape-scale connectivity is eroded and local species richness and abundance become dependent on patch size. Despite the fact that species patch-area effects have been a mainstay of conservation science there has yet to be a robust empirical evaluation of this hypothesis. Here we present and test a new conceptual model describing the mechanisms and consequences of biodiversity change in fragmented landscapes, identifying the fragmentation threshold as a first step in a positive feedback mechanism that has the capacity to impair ecological resilience, and drive a regime shift in biodiversity. The model considers that local extinction risk is defined by patch size, and immigration rates by landscape vegetation cover, and that the recovery from local species losses depends upon the landscape species pool. Using a unique dataset on the distribution of non-volant small mammals across replicate landscapes in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, we found strong evidence for our model predictions--that patch-area effects are evident only at intermediate levels of total forest cover, where landscape diversity is still high and opportunities for enhancing biodiversity through local management are greatest. Furthermore, high levels of forest loss can push native biota through an extinction filter, and result in the abrupt, landscape-wide loss of forest-specialist taxa, ecological resilience and management effectiveness. The proposed model links hitherto distinct theoretical approaches within a single framework, providing a powerful tool for analysing the potential effectiveness of management interventions.
Project description:Tropical forest loss and fragmentation can change bee community dynamics and potentially interrupt plant-pollinator relationships. While bee community responses to forest fragmentation have been investigated in a number of tropical regions, no studies have focused on this topic in Australia. In this study, we examine taxonomic and functional diversity of bees visiting flowers of three tree species across small and large rainforest fragments in Australian tropical landscapes. We found lower taxonomic diversity of bees visiting flowers of trees in small rainforest fragments compared with large forest fragments and show that bee species in small fragments were subsets of species in larger fragments. Bees visiting trees in small fragments also had higher mean body sizes than those in larger fragments, suggesting that small-sized bees may be less likely to persist in small fragments. Lastly, we found reductions in the abundance of eusocial stingless bees visiting flowers in small fragments compared to large fragments. These results suggest that pollinator visits to native trees living in small tropical forest remnants may be reduced, which may in turn impact on a range of processes, potentially including forest regeneration and diversity maintenance in small forest remnants in Australian tropical countryside landscapes.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The total amount of native vegetation is an important property of fragmented landscapes and is known to exert a strong influence on population and metapopulation dynamics. As the relationship between habitat loss and local patch and gap characteristics is strongly non-linear, theoretical models predict that immigration rates should decrease dramatically at low levels of remaining native vegetation cover, leading to patch-area effects and the existence of species extinction thresholds across fragmented landscapes with different proportions of remaining native vegetation. Although empirical patterns of species distribution and richness give support to these models, direct measurements of immigration rates across fragmented landscapes are still lacking.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>Using the Brazilian Atlantic forest marsupial Gray Slender Mouse Opossum (Marmosops incanus) as a model species and estimating demographic parameters of populations in patches situated in three landscapes differing in the total amount of remaining forest, we tested the hypotheses that patch-area effects on population density are apparent only at intermediate levels of forest cover, and that immigration rates into forest patches are defined primarily by landscape context surrounding patches. As expected, we observed a positive patch-area effect on M. incanus density only within the landscape with intermediate forest cover. Density was independent of patch size in the most forested landscape and the species was absent from the most deforested landscape. Specifically, the mean estimated numbers of immigrants into small patches were lower in the landscape with intermediate forest cover compared to the most forested landscape.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>Our results reveal the crucial importance of the total amount of remaining native vegetation for species persistence in fragmented landscapes, and specifically as to the role of variable immigration rates in providing the underlying mechanism that drives both patch-area effects and species extinction thresholds.
Project description:Habitat loss is the dominant threat to biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in terrestrial environments. In this study, we used an a priori classification of bird species based on their dependence on native forest habitats (forest-specialist and habitat generalists) and specific food resources (frugivores and insectivores) to evaluate their responses to forest cover reduction in landscapes in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. From the patch-landscapes approach, we delimited 40 forest sites, and quantified the percentage of native forest within a 2 km radius around the center of each site (from 6 - 85%). At each site, we sampled birds using the point-count method. We used a null model, a generalized linear model and a four-parameter logistic model to evaluate the relationship between richness and abundance of the bird groups and the native forest amount. A piecewise model was then used to determine the threshold value for bird groups that showed nonlinear responses. The richness and abundance of the bird community as a whole were not affected by changes in forest cover in this region. However, a decrease in forest cover had a negative effect on diversity of forest-specialist, frugivorous and insectivorous birds, and a positive effect on generalist birds. The species richness and abundance of all ecological groups were nonlinearly related to forest reduction and showed similar threshold values, i.e., there were abrupt changes in individuals and species numbers when forest amount was less than approximately 50%. Forest sites within landscapes with forest cover that was less than 50% contained a different bird species composition than more extensively forested sites and had fewer forest-specialist species and higher beta-diversity. Our study demonstrated the pervasive effect of forest reduction on bird communities in one of the most important hotspots for bird conservation and shows that many vulnerable species require extensive forest cover to persist.
Project description:The small rainforest fragments found in savanna landscapes are powerful, yet often overlooked, model systems to understand the controls of these contrasting ecosystems. We analyzed the relative effect of climatic variables on rainforest density at a subcontinental level, and employed high-resolution, regional-level analyses to assess the importance of landscape settings and fire activity in determining rainforest density in a frequently burnt Australian savanna landscape. Estimates of rainforest density (ha/km<sup>2</sup>) across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, derived from preexisting maps, were used to calculate the correlations between rainforest density and climatic variables. A detailed map of the northern Kimberley (Western Australia) rainforests was generated and analyzed to determine the importance of geology and topography in controlling rainforests, and to contrast rainforest density on frequently burnt mainland and nearby islands. In the northwestern Australian, tropics rainforest density was positively correlated with rainfall and moisture index, and negatively correlated with potential evapotranspiration. At a regional scale, rainforests showed preference for complex topographic positions and more fertile geology. Compared with mainland areas, islands had significantly lower fire activity, with no differences between terrain types. They also displayed substantially higher rainforest density, even on level terrain where geomorphological processes do not concentrate nutrients or water. Our multi-scale approach corroborates previous studies that suggest moist climate, infrequent fires, and geology are important stabilizing factors that allow rainforest fragments to persist in savanna landscapes. These factors need to be incorporated in models to predict the future extent of savannas and rainforests under climate change.
Project description:The importance of landscape heterogeneity to biodiversity may depend on the size of the geographic range of species, which in turn can reflect species traits (such as habitat generalization) and the effects of historical and contemporary land covers. We used nationwide bird survey data from Japan, where heterogeneous landscapes predominate, to test the hypothesis that wide-ranging species are positively associated with landscape heterogeneity in terms of species richness and abundance, whereas narrow-ranging species are positively associated with landscape homogeneity in the form of either open or forest habitats. We used simultaneous autoregressive models to explore the effects of climate, evapotranspiration, and landscape heterogeneity on the richness and abundance of breeding land-bird species. The richness of wide-ranging species and the total species richness were highest in heterogeneous landscapes, where many wide-ranging species showed the highest abundance. In contrast, the richness of narrow-ranging species was not highest in heterogeneous landscapes; most of those species were abundant in either open or forest landscapes. Moreover, in open landscapes, narrow-ranging species increased their species richness with decreasing temperature. These results indicate that heterogeneous landscapes are associated with rich bird diversity but that most narrow-ranging species prefer homogeneous landscapes--particularly open habitats in colder regions, where grasslands have historically predominated. There is a need to reassess the generality of the heterogeneity-biodiversity relationship, with attention to the characteristics of species assemblages determined by environments at large spatiotemporal scales.
Project description:We examine the effects of forest fragmentation on the structure and composition of tree assemblages within three seasonal and aseasonal forest types of southern Brazil, including evergreen, Araucaria, and deciduous forests. We sampled three southernmost Atlantic Forest landscapes, including the largest continuous forest protected areas within each forest type. Tree assemblages in each forest type were sampled within 10 plots of 0.1 ha in both continuous forests and 10 adjacent forest fragments. All trees within each plot were assigned to trait categories describing their regeneration strategy, vertical stratification, seed-dispersal mode, seed size, and wood density. We detected differences among both forest types and landscape contexts in terms of overall tree species richness, and the density and species richness of different functional groups in terms of regeneration strategy, seed dispersal mode and woody density. Overall, evergreen forest fragments exhibited the largest deviations from continuous forest plots in assemblage structure. Evergreen, Araucaria and deciduous forests diverge in the functional composition of tree floras, particularly in relation to regeneration strategy and stress tolerance. By supporting a more diversified light-demanding and stress-tolerant flora with reduced richness and abundance of shade-tolerant, old-growth species, both deciduous and Araucaria forest tree assemblages are more intrinsically resilient to contemporary human-disturbances, including fragmentation-induced edge effects, in terms of species erosion and functional shifts. We suggest that these intrinsic differences in the direction and magnitude of responses to changes in landscape structure between forest types should guide a wide range of conservation strategies in restoring fragmented tropical forest landscapes worldwide.