Landscape Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1061–1073 | Cite as

Thresholds in landscape structure for three common deforestation patterns in the Brazilian Amazon

  • Francisco José Barbosa Oliveira de Filho
  • Jean Paul MetzgerEmail author
Research Article


Although abrupt changes (i.e. thresholds) have been precisely defined in simulated landscapes, such changes in the structure of real landscapes are not well understood. We tested for threshold occurrence in three common deforestation patterns in the Brazilian Amazon: small properties regularly distributed along roads (fishbone), irregularly distributed small properties (independent settlements), and large properties. We analyzed differences between real deforestation patterns, and tested the capacity of simulated landscape with different aggregation degrees to predict threshold occurrence. Three 8×8 km sites (replicates) with more than 90% of forest in 1984 and less than 30% in 1998 were selected/simulated for each deforestation pattern. Thresholds were observed for fishbone and large property patterns, especially when considering the connectivity index, although threshold incidences were more frequently observed in simulated landscapes. The capacity of simulated landscapes to predict the exact threshold point in real landscapes was limited, even when considering highly aggregate simulations. However, the general trend in landscape structural changes was similar in real and simulated landscapes. Thresholds occurred at the beginning of the deforestation for mean patch size and at an intermediate stage, corresponding to the percolation threshold, for connectivity, isolation and fragmentation. Threshold behavior for connectivity index might suggest that the survival of strictly forest species will sharply decrease when the proportion of forest reach values <0.60, indicating that conservation efforts should be done to maintain forest cover above this limit. Significant differences observed among the real deforestation patterns, especially in patch isolation and number of fragments, can have significant consequences for conservation. The independent settlement pattern is, without a doubt, the least favorable of them, resulting in a higher level of fragmentation, whereas the large property and fishbone patterns may be less detrimental if connectivity among the remnant forest patches is preserved.


Brazilian Amazon Connectivity Deforestation patterns Fragmentation Landscape dynamics Structural threshold Tropical forests 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco José Barbosa Oliveira de Filho
    • 1
  • Jean Paul Metzger
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Ecology – Bioscience InstituteUniversity of São PauloSao PauloBrazil

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