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Forest structure in a mosaic of rainforest sites The effect of fragmentation and recovery after clear cut

, : Forest structure in a mosaic of rainforest sites The effect of fragmentation and recovery after clear cut. Forest Ecology and Management 257(11): 0-2234

A variety of human-induced disturbances such as forest fragmentation and recovery after deforestation for pasture or agricultural activities have resulted in a complex landscape mosaic in the Una region of northeastern Brazil. Using a set of vegetation descriptors, we investigated the main structural changes observed in forest categories that comprise the major components of the regional landscape and searched for potential key descriptors that could be used to discriminate among different forest categories. We assessed the forest structure of five habitat categories defined as (1) interiors and (2) edges of large fragments of old-growth forest (>1000 ha), (3) interiors and (4) edges of small forest fragments (<100 ha), and (5) early secondary forests. Forest descriptors used here were: frequency of herbaceous lianas and woody climbers, number of standing dead trees, number of fallen trunks, litter depth, number of pioneer plants (early secondary and shade-intolerant species), vertical foliage stratification profile and distribution of trees in different diameter classes. Edges and interiors of forest fragments were significantly different only in the number of standing dead trees. Secondary forests and edges of fragments showed differences in litter depth, fallen trunks and number of pioneer trees, and secondary forests were significantly different from fragment interiors in the number of standing dead trees and the number of pioneer trees. Horizontal and vertical structure evaluated via ordination analysis showed that fragment interiors, compared to secondary forests, were characterized by a greater number of medium (25–35 cm) and large (35–50 cm) trees and smaller numbers of thin trees (5–10 cm). There was great heterogeneity at the edges of small and large fragments, as these sites were distributed along almost the entire gradient. Most interiors of large and small fragments presented higher values of foliage densities at higher strata (15–20 m and at 20–25 m height), and lower densities at 1–5 m. All secondary forests and some fragment edge sites showed an opposite tendency. A discriminant function highlighted differences among forest categories, with transects of large fragment interiors and secondary forests representing two extremes along a disturbance gradient determined by foliage structure (densities at 15–20 m and 20–25 m), with the edges of both large and small fragments and the interiors of small fragments scattered across the gradient. The major underlying processes determining patterns of forest disturbance in the study region are discussed, highlighting the importance of forest fragments, independently of its size, as forests recovery after clear cut show a greatly distinct structure, with profound implications on fauna movements.


DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.02.032

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