Spatial complexity in fragmenting Amazonian rainforests: do feedbacks from edge effects push forests towards an ecological threshold?

Cumming, Graeme S., Southworth, Jane, Rondon, Xanic J., and Marsik, Matthew (2012) Spatial complexity in fragmenting Amazonian rainforests: do feedbacks from edge effects push forests towards an ecological threshold? Ecological Complexity, 11. pp. 67-74.

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Abstract

Deforestation and resulting landscape fragmentation are important concerns in many tropical areas. Deforestation is a complex process with many potential feedback loops, many of which are ignored in models that attempt to interpolate forest loss based on past deforestation rates. In addition, most ecological studies of the impacts of deforestation have focused on landscapes that are already fragmented. These studies ignore the fact that edge effects, such as anthropogenic fire, reach their maximum well before habitat connectivity is lost and may create positive feedbacks that result in further fragmentation. We developed a simple model to explore the potential influence of edge effects on fragmentation rates and used remotely sensed data from the MAP (Madre de Dios, Acre, and Pando) region of the Brazilian Amazon to parameterize the relationships of interest. Under reasonable real-world parameter combinations, edge effects can have a significant impact on deforestation rates, supporting the hypothesis that the true tipping point in a forest to pasture regime shift occurs earlier (i.e., ~50% forest loss) than analysis of a loss in connectivity would suggest (i.e., ~60% forest loss). Our results have important implications for understanding deforestation, edge-driven processes, regime shifts, and the management of complex pattern-process relationships.

Item ID: 40963
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: Amazon, disturbance, edge, fire, landscape ecology, tipping point
ISSN: 1476-9840
Funders: National Science Foundation (USA)
Projects and Grants: NSF Human and Social Dynamics Grant
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2015 01:54
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 34%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050199 Ecological Applications not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960501 Ecosystem Assessment and Management at Regional or Larger Scales @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961308 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas at Regional or Larger Scales @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 34%
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