Lessons from Amazonia 


Studies of Tropical Habitat Fragmentation

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Isolated 1 and 10 ha study sites (reserves 1202 and 1104) of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project, Manaus, Brazil.


    The Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project is the world’s largest and longest-running experimental investigation of the effects of habitat fragmentation on tropical forest ecosystems. In the rainforest 60 km north of Manaus, Brazil (1500 km up the Amazon River) we set up a series of forest patches, ranging in size from 1 to 100 ha, in which we studied the flora and fauna before and after the patches were isolated by ranchers clearing for cattle pastures.

    I arrived in Manaus in 1979 to set this project up as a joint venture between the World Wildlife Fund and Brazil’s National Institute for Research in Amazonia (INPA) and was its Field Director until 1988. From 1988 to 1993 I directed the Project from the Smithsonian Institution’s Biodiversity Programs at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

    Our studies focused originally on the effects of the size of the reserves on the number and types of species that could survive in them. Early findings drew our attention to the effects of creating an abrupt edge between forest and adjacent pasture. Over time, most of the cattle pastures that originally isolated our reserves were abandoned and let revert to second-growth forest. Our research has highlighted the interactions between the forest reserves and the landscape around them, which we have discovered can be more important than the size of the reserve in determining what species will be found in an isolated patch of forest. Visit the Smithsonian’s web site for details of our findings.

    Many of our results can be found in Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management and Conservation of Fragmented Communities, recently (1997) published by the University of Chicago Press. Visit UCP’s web site to see more about this volume, including abstracts of all the chapters in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

    We (Claude Gascon, Tom Lovejoy, Rita Mesquita, and I) are editing another volume, Lessons from Amazonia: The ecology and conservation of a fragmented forest, which will be published by Yale University Press. The book is due to be available in November, 2001. Click here to see the draft Table of Contents.

    Visit the BDFFP's website to download files with images of the project, including satellite images, rainfall data, maps of the study areas, and the entire list of publications (almost 300).

Recent publications on tropical habitat fragmentation:

Zimmerman, B. L., and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr. 1986. Relevance of the equilibrium theory of island biogeography with an example from Amazonia. J. Biogeography 13: 133-143.

Bierregaard, R. O. , Jr., and V. H. Dale. 1993. Islands in an ever-changing sea: the ecological and socioeconomic dynamics of Amazonian rainforest fragments. In J. Schelhas and R. Greenberg (editors.) Forest Patches in Tropical Landscapes. Island Press, Washington, DC. Pp. 187-204.

Bierregaard, R. O., Jr., Lovejoy, T. E., Kapos, V., Santos, A. A. dos, and Hutchings, R. W. 1992. The biological dynamics of tropical rainforest fragments. BioScience 42:859-866.

Bierregaard, R. O., Jr. (And 12 co-authors). 1997. Key priorities for the study of fragmented tropical ecosystems. In W. F. Laurance and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., editors, Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management and Conservation of Fragmented Communities. Senior author, w/ 13 co-authors.

Offerman, H., Dale, V. H., Pearson, S. M., O'Neil, R. V., and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr. 1995. Effects of forest fragmentation on neotropical fauna: Current research and data availability. Environmental Reviews 3:191-211.

Laurance, W. F., and Bierregaard, R. O., Jr. 1997. Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management and Conservation of Fragmented Communities. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Gascon, C., T. E. Lovejoy, R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., J. R Malcolm, P. C. Stouffer, H. Vasconcelos, W. F. Laurance, B. Zimmerman, M. Tocher, and S. Borges. 1999. Matrix habitat and species persistence in tropical forest remnants. Biological Conservation 91: 223-230.

Bierregaard, R. O., Jr., C. Gascon, T. E. Lovejoy, and R. Mesquita. Lessons From Amazonia: The Ecology and Conservation of a fragmented forest. A collection of invited chapters on research at an experimental rainforest field station in Brazilian Amazonia. Under contract to Yale University Press.

Click here for publications on the ecology of neotropical birds in fragmented habitats and undisturbed forest

Click here for publications on the ecology and conservation of birds of prey.

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