Functional attributes change but functional richness is unchanged after fragmentation of Brazilian Atlantic forests

Magnago, Luiz Fernando S., Edwards, David P., Edwards, Felicity A., Magrach, Ainhoa, Martins, Sebastião V., and Laurance, William F. (2014) Functional attributes change but functional richness is unchanged after fragmentation of Brazilian Atlantic forests. Journal of Ecology, 102 (2). pp. 475-485.

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1. Fragmentation of tropical forests is one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity. Understanding how biological and functional attributes of communities respond to fragmentation and, in turn, whether ecosystem functioning is impacted upon are critical steps for assessing the long-term effects and conservation values of forest fragments. Ecosystem functioning can be inferred through functional diversity metrics, including functional richness, evenness and divergence, which collectively quantify the range, distribution and uniqueness of functional traits within a community.

2. Our study was carried out in forest remnants of the Brazilian Atlantic rain forest, which is a global hotspot of threatened biodiversity that has undergone massive deforestation and fragmentation. We focus on trees, which play critical functional roles in forest structure, food provisioning and carbon storage, to examine community organization and functional diversity across a gradient of fragmentation, from small to large fragments and at edge versus interior habitats.

3. The interiors of small fragments have marginally higher species richness, but similar community structures, to the interiors of bigger fragments. In contrast, fragment edges suffered significant losses of species and changes in community structure, relative to fragment interiors.

4. Despite shifts in community organization, functional richness was not impacted by fragmentation, with the same number of functions provided independent of fragment size or proximity to edge. However, functional evenness and functional divergence both increased with decreasing fragment size, while fragment edges had lower functional evenness than interiors did, indicating that the abundance and dominance of functional traits has changed, with negative implications for functional redundancy and ecosystem resilience. At fragment edges, large-fruited trees, critical as resources for fauna, were replaced by early successional, small-seeded species. The influence of fragment size was smaller, with a reduction in very large-fruited trees in small fragments counterbalanced by increased numbers of fleshy- and medium-fruited trees. Wood density was not impacted by fragmentation.

5. Synthesis: these results suggest that the interiors of even small fragments can contain important biodiversity, ecosystem functions and carbon stores, offering potential opportunities for cobenefits under existing carbon markets. Retaining forest fragments is an important conservation strategy within the highly threatened Brazilian Atlantic forest biome.

Item ID: 32996
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1365-2745
Keywords: carbon, fauna resources,fragmented landscape, functional diversity, functional trait attributes, species richness, tableland Atlantic rain forest, wood density
Funders: Brazilian Agency for Science and Techology (CNPq), Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES), Basque Government
Projects and Grants: CNPq process no. 477780/2009-1
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2014 09:24
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960806 Forest and Woodlands Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 50%
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