Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 14, pp 3627–3643 | Cite as

Vanishing bird species in the Atlantic Forest: relative importance of landscape configuration, forest structure and species characteristics

  • Alexandre Uezu
  • Jean Paul Metzger
Original Paper


Patch size, isolation, and vegetation structure are expected to strongly affect species persistence in fragmented landscapes, particularly for those with <30% of native habitat remaining. Those influences should be modulated by species characteristics, resulting in complex relationships. In order to investigate how species, habitat structure and landscape factors are related and how they affected species persistence, we studied bird communities in a fragmented Atlantic Forest region. Patch size strongly affected species richness and population abundances. However, some functional groups were more affected than others, particularly endemic and understory insectivores, species that are near the limits of their geographical distribution, those using few forest types, and those with their center of abundance in high altitude tropical forests. The effect of vegetation structure was mainly at the species level, reflecting specific responses to habitat quality. The importance of landscape variables varies according to the species group. For the most affected ones, which usually have low dispersal capacity, patch size and quality were the most relevant factors, whereas patch isolation was associated with the richness of groups with more generalist species. This pattern is due to the limited structural connectivity in the study region, composed of low matrix permeability (e.g. pastures and sugar cane), which isolate the most affected species, making them more dependent on local factors. In such a fragmented landscape, the largest patches should be prioritized for conservation purposes, as they aggregate the most vulnerable species and present the highest alpha diversity. Landscape management, as such, should also reconnect large fragments through corridors or matrix improvements, promoting better conditions for long-term persistence of the most affected species.


Biodiversity Connectivity Conservation Fragmentation Landscape Ecology Species sensitivity 



We thank Pedro Develey, Miguel Â. Marini, Paulo Inácio Prado and Wesley Silva for revising previous version of this manuscript. We are in debt with Clinton Jenkins, for valuable suggestions and for improving the English. We are also grateful for the cooperation of the staff of IPÊ – Institute for Ecological Research. Financial support was provided by FAPESP (The State of São Paulo Research Foundation, process no. 02/01746-1), Idea Wild and Association of Field Ornithologists.

Supplementary material

10531_2011_154_MOESM1_ESM.doc (941 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 941 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IPÊ – Institute for Ecological ResearchNazaré PaulistaBrazil
  2. 2.Department of EcologyInstitute of Bioscience, University of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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