The fate of Amazonian forest fragments: A 32-year investigation

Journal Article (Review;Journal)

We synthesize findings to date from the world's largest and longest-running experimental study of habitat fragmentation, located in central Amazonia. Over the past 32. years, Amazonian forest fragments ranging from 1 to 100. ha have experienced a wide array of ecological changes. Edge effects have been a dominant driver of fragment dynamics, strongly affecting forest microclimate, tree mortality, carbon storage, fauna, and other aspects of fragment ecology. However, edge-effect intensity varies markedly in space and time, and is influenced by factors such as edge age, the number of nearby edges, and the adjoining matrix of modified vegetation surrounding fragments. In our study area, the matrix has changed markedly over the course of the study (evolving from large cattle pastures to mosaics of abandoned pasture and regrowth forest) and this in turn has strongly influenced fragment dynamics and faunal persistence. Rare weather events, especially windstorms and droughts, have further altered fragment ecology. In general, populations and communities of species in fragments are hyperdynamic relative to nearby intact forest. Some edge and fragment-isolation effects have declined with a partial recovery of secondary forests around fragments, but other changes, such as altered patterns of tree recruitment, are ongoing. Fragments are highly sensitive to external vicissitudes, and even small changes in local land-management practices may drive fragmented ecosystems in markedly different directions. The effects of fragmentation are likely to interact synergistically with other anthropogenic threats such as logging, hunting, and especially fire, creating an even greater peril for the Amazonian biota. © 2010.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Laurance, WF; Camargo, JLC; Luizão, RCC; Laurance, SG; Pimm, SL; Bruna, EM; Stouffer, PC; Bruce Williamson, G; Benítez-Malvido, J; Vasconcelos, HL; Van Houtan, KS; Zartman, CE; Boyle, SA; Didham, RK; Andrade, A; Lovejoy, TE

Published Date

  • January 1, 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 144 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 56 - 67

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0006-3207

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.09.021

Citation Source

  • Scopus