chapter  7
20 Pages

Developing.a.Thick.Understanding.of.Forest.Fragmentation.in. Landscapes.of.Colonization.in.the.Amazon.Basin

Landscape fragmentation is a key concern of landscape ecologists and conservation biologists. Landscapes provide the habitats and determine the resources necessary for plant and animal species to survive. As landscapes fragment, the proportions of different elements in any landscape change, as do their spatial properties.1 Efforts to understand spatial patterns of, and relationships between, these elements have been a key objective of landscape ecology, while conservation biologists have tried to relate the responses of species to these spatial patterns,2,3,4 sometimes through direct manipulation of landscapes (cf. review of such experiments by Debinski and Holt5) but more often by observation. Many commentators on environmental issues in the humid tropics cite landscape fragmentation, along with the more general “­forest loss,” as major determinants of biodiversity loss and ecological deterioration.

Research to understand ecological responses to forest loss over time is fragmentary in itself, but research carried out under the auspices of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project in northern Amazonia6,7,8 has provided a plethora of notable exceptions, the results of which were recently reviewed by Laurence et al.9