Targeted habitat restoration can reduce extinction rates in fragmented forests.
The Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and the Atlantic Forest of Brazil are two of the most fragmented biodiversity hotspots. Species-area relationships predict that their habitat fragments will experience a substantial loss of species. Most of these extinctions will occur over an extended time, and therefore, reconnecting fragments could prevent species losses and allow locally extinct species to recolonize former habitats. An empirical relaxation half-life vs. area relationship for tropical bird communities estimates the time that it takes to lose one-half of all species that will be eventually lost. We use it to estimate the increase in species persistence by regenerating a forest connection 1 km in width among the largest and closest fragments at 11 locations. In the Eastern Arc Mountains, regenerating 8,134 ha of forest would create >316,000 ha in total of restored contiguous forest. More importantly, it would increase the persistence time for species by a factor of 6.8 per location or ∼2,272 years, on average, relative to individual fragments. In the Atlantic Forest, regenerating 6,452 ha of forest would create >251,000 ha in total of restored contiguous forest and enhance species persistence by a factor of 13.0 per location or ∼5,102 years, on average, relative to individual fragments. Rapidly regenerating forest among fragments is important, because mean time to the first determined extinction across all fragments is 7 years. We estimate the cost of forest regeneration at $21-$49 million dollars. It could provide one of the highest returns on investment for biodiversity conservation worldwide.
Newmark, WD; Jenkins, CN; Pimm, SL; McNeally, PB; Halley, JM
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