, Volume 13, Issue 13, pp 2567-2586

Effects of forest fragmentation on small mammals in an Atlantic Forest landscape

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Abstract

Recent studies on the effects of tropical forest fragmentation indicate that fragmented landscapes are complex and heterogeneous systems influenced by factors other than the size or degree of isolation of forest remnants: of particular importance are the quality of the matrix and the edge-induced habitat changes. In order to investigate the influence of these factors, small mammals were surveyed in 36 sites in the landscape of Una, a region that encompasses some of the last and largest Atlantic Forest remnants in northeastern Brazil. Six sites were distributed on each of six landscape components – the interiors and edges of small remnants, the interiors and edges of large remnants, and the most common forested habitats found in the matrix. The survey comprised 46,656 trap-nights and yielded 1725 individuals of 20 species of rodents and marsupials. Results revealed: an increase in beta-diversity caused by fragmentation; the contrasting effects of the altered forested habitats of the matrix, which harbor both forest and disturbance-adapted species; a greater importance of edge effect than of patch size to the observed changes in small mammal community in remnants; an association among terrestrial forest species and among arboreal forest species in terms of the distribution and abundance in the Una mosaic; and a distinctive vulnerability of these two groups of species to fragmentation. Results emphasize the biological importance and conservation value of both fragmented landscapes and small remnants in the Atlantic Forest, as well as the importance of management techniques to control and attenuate edge effects.