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Habitat fragmentation and the desiccation of forest canopies: A case study from eastern Amazonia

Briant G., Gond V., Laurance S.G.W.. 2010. Biological Conservation, 143 (11) : p. 2763-2769.

DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.07.024

Across the deforestation frontier in eastern Amazonia, we examined the relationship between edgerelated forest desiccation and deforestation patterns using remote-sensing techniques. Canopy-moisture levels were estimated over an eight-year period in three study sites that encompassed _100,000 km2 in area. We found four main effects of deforestation on dry-season canopy desiccation. First, intact forests showed no detectable change in canopy water content whereas forests adjacent to clearings showed significant water loss. Second, the distance to which edge-related desiccation penetrated into forest interiors varied among landscapes with differing forest loss and fragmentation. In moderately fragmented landscapes (with 65% and 51% remaining forest cover), canopy desiccation extended 1¿1.5 km into forest interiors, whereas in heavily fragmented landscapes (20% forest cover) desiccation penetrated up to 2.7 km into forests. Third, the magnitude of edge-related desiccation varied among landscapes with differing fragmentation. Moderately fragmented landscapes exhibited a greater magnitude of change in canopy- water loss over the first 1 km from an edge than did heavily fragmented landscapes. Finally, forest desiccation penetrated further into forests over time in the moderately fragmented landscapes, but not in the heavily fragmented landscape, where edge-related desiccation had evidently ¿saturated¿ remaining forests. We conclude that protracted dry seasons will have far more serious effects on fragmented than intact rainforests, with the former becoming highly vulnerable to destructive fires. With _30,000 km of new forest edge being created annually in Brazilian Amazonia, these finding have serious implications for forest conservation.

Mots-clés : forêt tropicale; changement climatique; déshydratation; déboisement; sécheresse; fragmentation de l'habitat; télédétection; stress dû à la sécheresse; paysage; saison sèche; Écologie forestière; amazonie; para; maranhao; goias; canopée; déforestation

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