Landscape Ecology

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 187–200 | Cite as

How good are tropical forest patches for ecosystem services provisioning?

  • Silvio F. B. FerrazEmail author
  • Katia M. P. M. B. Ferraz
  • Carla C. Cassiano
  • Pedro Henrique S. Brancalion
  • Daniela T. A. da Luz
  • Thais N. Azevedo
  • Leandro R. Tambosi
  • Jean Paul Metzger
Research Article


Native forests play an important role regarding ecosystem services related to biodiversity, water, and nutrient cycling, and the intensity of those services should be related to the amount, configuration and quality of the forest. However, in highly dynamic landscapes, such as some tropical regions, ecosystem services are potentially affected not only by the present landscape structure, but also by the historical land use. Here we propose a simple methodological framework to evaluate the contribution of past landscape dynamics and present landscape structure in the provision of ecosystem services. We applied this framework to a traditional agricultural landscape from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest hotspot, where natural forests cover has increased from 8 to 16 % in the last 60 years (1962–2008), and where old forests are being reduced while young forests are being regenerated. Forests of different ages, in association with current landscape structure, reveal a mosaic of forest patches under different conditions, implying different abilities to deliver ecosystem services. With the replacement of old-growth forests by young-regenerating forests and a high level of forest fragmentation, less than 1/4 of the current forest cover is able to fully satisfy the ecosystem service demands. To avoid such tendency, government policies should not only focus on increasing forest cover, but also in conserving old-growth forest fragments or increasing forest quality. The proposed methodology allows integrating historical land use and current landscape structure to evaluate ecosystem services provision and can be useful to establish programs of payment for ecosystem services.


Agricultural landscape Biodiversity Landscape dynamics Atlantic Forest Historical land use Sugarcane Pasture Corumbataí 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of FAPESP (processes: 2011/06782-5; 2011/19767-4; 2010/13627-3) and the Brazilian Science Council (CNPq) for the research fellowship for JPM. The following Laboratories support this study: Ecology, Management and Conservation Wildlife Laboratory (LEMaC), Quantitative Methods Laboratory (LMQ) and Forest Hydrology Laboratory (LHF) from Forest Science Department/ESALQ—University of São Paulo; Landscape Ecology and Conservation Laboratory (LEPAC) from Bioscience Institute (IB)—University of São Paulo. We thank Alaine Ball for English review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Silvio F. B. Ferraz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Katia M. P. M. B. Ferraz
    • 1
  • Carla C. Cassiano
    • 2
  • Pedro Henrique S. Brancalion
    • 1
  • Daniela T. A. da Luz
    • 2
  • Thais N. Azevedo
    • 3
  • Leandro R. Tambosi
    • 3
  • Jean Paul Metzger
    • 4
  1. 1.Forest Sciences Department, “Luiz de Queiroz” College of AgricultureUniversity of São PauloPiracicabaBrazil
  2. 2.Forest Resources Graduate Program, “Luiz de Queiroz” College of AgricultureUniversity of São PauloPiracicabaBrazil
  3. 3.Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystem’s Ecology Program, Bioscience InstituteUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Ecology Department, Bioscience InstituteUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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